Intelligence: Robotic Interrogators Deployed


December 12, 2007: A scary new intelligence collecting tool has shown up in Russia. The new threat is a program that can be set loose in chat rooms of dating services, and convincingly flirt with people, getting them to reveal information about themselves (that can then be used for identity theft type crimes.) So far, the CyberLove program only works in Russian, but the rumor in the hacker underground that this is just beta testing, and that the system will be for sale in February (in the largely hidden hacker market), just in time for Valentines Day.

This kind of social engineering software is nothing new. The first of these programs, "Eliza" was created in the 1960s, on a dare, to imitate an online therapist. It worked better than its creators expected. While an experienced software engineer, or just a good conversationalist, could quickly figure out that Eliza was not a real person, many people could not.

CyberLove is a lot more convincing, although converting it to work in other languages (with their different social rules) or on different types of chat rooms (like those frequented for military personnel) will require a lot of work, it won't take a particularly huge effort to do this.

Convincing chat room bots open up big opportunities for intelligence agencies. With thousands of chat rooms devoted to Islamic, and other forms of, terrorism, CyberAgent software could collect a lot more information than is currently being grabbed by just monitoring these chat rooms. Some believe that U.S. intel agencies have already developed bots for this purpose, as this technology has been intermittently developed, and deployed, since Eliza first appeared. CyberLove, however, is the most powerful program of this type to ever show up.


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