Voice deepfake scams have emerged as a pressing issue within the cybersecurity landscape (Flitter and Cowley, 2023). These scams use artificial intelligence (AI) to make remarkably convincing replicas of victims' voices. While the precise frequency of voice deepfake scams remains elusive, experts have observed a noticeable surge in their prevalence and sophistication. Companies like Pindrop and Nuance have reported an escalation in such deceptive activities. Scammers often use stolen customer data, such as sensitive bank account information, that is readily available on underground markets. Furthermore, affluent clients, with an abundance of publicly available audio samples online, find themselves particularly susceptible to the creation of persuasive deepfake voices. Remarkably, AI technology has advanced to the extent that generating a voice deepfake requires merely a few seconds of sampled audio, exemplified by Microsoft's VALL-E.
Most voice deepfake assaults target credit card service call centers, where human agents engage with customers seeking assistance. Call centers employ screening software designed to detect machine-generated speech, as synthetic speech often leaves telltale artifacts that anti-spoofing algorithms can identify. A major concern is scammers posing as someone else and directly contacting individuals. However, it is important to note that despite the growing sophistication of deepfake technology, real-life attacks utilizing voice deepfakes remain relatively uncommon. Successful breaches are infrequent and often necessitate multiple attempts. It's important to acknowledge that these scams originate from data breaches that expose personal information. Hackers use this information to create convincing deepfake phone calls.
Small Canadian business owners are facing a myriad of challenges that are prompting many to contemplate selling their companies (Poshnjari, 2023). One significant driving factor is the aging demographic of business owners, with a considerable number lacking succession plans and having no family members poised to take over their businesses. Having successfully navigated their businesses through the turbulent pandemic, numerous owners now find themselves battling burnout, leading them to seriously consider selling as their businesses recover.
Small businesses are finding it challenging to attract qualified candidates due to pressure from larger corporations offering higher salaries and more benefits. The high cost of adopting modern technology for business operations often leads owners to consider selling. Some business owners either lack the financial means or the willingness to invest in the necessary technology required to maintain competitiveness.
In addition, the increasing cost of living in Canada is affecting how people spend their money, with more emphasis placed on essential items rather than non-essential ones. This shift in spending habits is directly impacting consumer patterns. Despite these challenges, private equity firms and investors continue to show interest in acquiring businesses as they see them as attractive investment opportunities. However, it should be noted that acquiring businesses has become more expensive due to high-interest rates. The expected decline in interest rates in 2024 or 2025 is predicted to stimulate increased sales of Canadian businesses, as a surplus of capital seeks profitable investments. Furthermore, newcomers to Canada often purchase existing Canadian businesses as a means of becoming an entrepreneur and providing an injection of energy into the small business sector.
Nevertheless, despite some positive signs of recovery, it is crucial to acknowledge that not all small Canadian businesses have fully rebounded from the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lingering concerns persist regarding their ability to repay Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans, which are due in January 2024.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sent shockwaves through the House of Commons by referring to "credible" intelligence suggesting potential links between agents of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar (D’Andrea, 2023). The allegations have been denied by India. This diplomatic dispute has resulted in the expelling of diplomats from both nations and may cause a long-lasting standoff.
Before these allegations surfaced, Canada and India already struggled with strained trade relations. This situation holds substantial economic implications, as trade between these two nations is paramount. In 2022 alone, India ranked Canada's 10th largest trading partner, with exchanges worth billions of dollars. Canada exports significant amounts of fossil fuels, fertilizers, and wood pulp to India, while India exports pharmaceutical products, iron, steel products, and machinery to Canada.
Additionally, India is a substantial source of international students in Canada, accounting for approximately 40% of all international students. Any drop in international student enrollment could lead to a ripple effect in the higher education sector, as international students pay three times the tuition fees compared to domestic students. Moreover, the Canadian government's recent adjustment in student study permits, allowing for 40 hours of work per week, has led many international students to fill less sought-after minimum-wage positions, which play a crucial role in upholding our society and sustaining the economy.
The agricultural sector, particularly in Saskatchewan, heavily depends on trade with India, primarily for commodities like lentils. Any trade relationship interruptions could have significant economic repercussions for this sector. While there is mention of potential Canadian sanctions targeting sectors or individuals in response to this situation, such actions must be meticulously considered to avoid detrimental effects on Canadian businesses. Furthermore, Canada's ongoing efforts to diversify and reduce its trade dependence on China in the Indo-Pacific region continue unabated, even during this dispute with India.
Financial Tip of the Month:
Protecting your financial well-being extends beyond traditional strategies in an increasingly digital world. Everyone must make cybersecurity a top priority. Strengthen your digital defenses with unique, strong passwords for each online account, avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions, enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) wherever possible, keep your software updated to patch vulnerabilities, and exercise caution with email attachments and links to ward off phishing attempts. These steps protect your assets and ensure a more secure digital future.
We hope you find this information valuable and informative. As always, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com for any questions about your portfolio or to help navigate the process of growing and preserving your wealth.
D’Andrea, Aaron. “Why the Agricultural Sector Hopes Cooler Heads in Canada-India Row.” Global News, Global News, 20 Sept. 2023, globalnews.ca/news/9973301/hardeep-singh-nijjar-india-canada-trade/.
Flitter, Emily, and Stacy Cowley. “Voice Deepfakes Are Coming for Your Bank Balance.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Aug. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/08/30/business/voice-deepfakes-bank-scams.html.
Poshnjari, Iva. “Aging, High Living Costs Prompt Small Business Owners to Sell - BNN Bloomberg.” BNN Bloomberg, BNN Bloomberg, 21 Sept. 2023, www.bnnbloomberg.ca/wage-pressures-squeeze-talent-from-smaller-to-larger-employers-1.1974638.