Online security firm PC Tools has warned of a new software program developed in Russia, which flirts with people seeking relationships online in order to collect their personal data.
The software, dubbed CyberLover, is supposed to be able to conduct fully automated flirtatious conversations with users of chat-rooms and dating sites to lure them into a set of dangerous actions such as sharing their identity or visiting websites with malicious content.
According to its creators, CyberLover can establish a new relationship with up to 10 partners in just 30 minutes and its victims cannot distinguish it from a human being.
PC Tools has expressed concern over the program's ability to mimic human behaviour during online interactions could be the catalyst for a dangerous new trend in malware evolution.
"As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering," says Sergei Shevchenko, senior malware analyst at PC Tools.
"It employs highly intelligent and customised dialogue to target users of social networking systems."
According to PC Tools, the CyberLover software can operate within several profiles ranging from 'romantic lover' to 'sexual predator' and is designed to recognise the responses of chat-room users to tailor its interaction accordingly.
"Internet users today are generally aware of the dangers of opening suspicious attachments and visiting unusual URLs, but CyberLover employs a new technique that is unheard of – and that's what makes it particularly dangerous, " added Shevchenko.
"CyberLover has been designed as a bot that lures victims automatically, without human intervention. If it's spawned in multiple instances on multiple servers, the number of potential victims could be very substantial."
The program can also compile a detailed report on every person it meets to submit to a remote source, which can include the victim's name, contact details and personal photos.
CyberLover will also often invite victims to visit a personal website or blog, which is usually a fake page used to automatically infect visitors with malware.
On a more scientific note, this has led some to question if this program could pass the Turing Test, a proposal for a test of a machine's capability to demonstrate intelligence.
The conclusion is that if someone communicating with a computer program via a terminal cannot reliably determine if they are interacting with a computer or a person, then that software can be considered intelligent.
However, others have pointed out that although the CyberLover program may be quite advanced, it is limited in its range of topics, and could be easily uncovered if taken out of a romantic scenario or following prolonged interaction.
As well as having up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware installed, PC Tools strongly recommends never giving personal details to anyone over the internet, without due consideration.
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