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New software designed to conduct flirtatious conversations is good enough to fool people into thinking they are chatting with a human, a security company has warned.

The CyberLover software was designed in Russia to engage people in conversations with the objective of inducing them to reveal information about their identities or to lead them to visit a web site that will deliver malicious content to their computers.

"As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering," said Sergei Shevchenko, Senior Malware Analyst at PC Tools. "It employs highly intelligent and customised dialogue to target users of social networking systems."

In 1950, British mathematician and computing pioneer Alan Turing posed a game in which a human interrogator is given the task of determining which of two respondents is human and which is a machine. This game has become known as the Turing Test.

Turing expected that by now, programming would have advanced to the level where "an average interrogator will not have more than 70 percent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning."

He would probably be disappointed if he knew how we've progressed. The Loebner Prize of $US100,000 plus a gold medal was first offered in 1990 for a computer that could pass the Turing Test, but remains unclaimed.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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