Internet chatroom romantics beware: your next chat may be with a clinical computer, not a passionate person, trying to win your personal data and not your heart, an online security firm says.
A Russian website called CyberLover.ru is advertising a software tool that, it says, can simulate flirtatious chatroom exchanges. It boasts that it can chat up as many as 10 women at the same time and persuade them to hand over phone numbers.
An Australian anti-virus software firm, PC Tools, has warned that the software could be abused by identity fraudsters trying to harvest people's personal details online. The Russian site denied it was intended for identity fraud.
The program, so far available only in Russian, will go on sale around February 15, just after St Valentine's Day, said the CyberLover.ru website.
Not a single girl has yet realized that she was communicating with a program! it said, adding that the program could also simulate virtual sex online.
It's happened - a program to tempt girls over the internet! said the site. Within half an hour the CyberLover program will introduce you to ... girls, exchange photos and perhaps even a contact phone number, it states.
Chatrooms have developed into a popular social networking section of the internet, where people can converse anonymously by keyboard on any topic, from flirting to fishing.
CyberLover's website explains that the settings on its program can be changed to attract men, persuade people to visit a website or encourage them to top up mobile telephone credit, and that all the data collected will be stored.
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A spokesman for PC Tools said the program had a terrifyingly well-organized interaction that could fool users into giving up personal details and could easily be converted to work in other languages.
As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering, Sergei Shevchenko, Senior Malware Analyst at PC Tools, said in a statement.
It employs highly intelligent and customized dialogue to target users of social networking systems.
He said the program can monitor Internet browser activity, automatically recognize and fill in the fields in the web pages, generate keystrokes and mouse clicks, and post messages, URLs, files and photos.
It can do exactly what users normally do when they are online, only in an automated pre-programmed way.
The CyberLover.ru site denied the program did anything wrong, saying it only gathered information that chatroom users themselves were volunteering.
The program can find no more information than the user is prepared to provide, one of the site's employees, who gave his name only as Alexander, said in an emailed reply to Reuters questions.
It maintains a dialogue with a person, but is not engaged in hacking or any other such schemes, I think this should be obvious, he said.
If you have someone who is ready to hand over secret information to the person they are chatting to after having known them for all of five minutes, then in that case a leak of information is possible.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)