Richard Wallace of the A.L.I.C.E. AI Foundation, Inc. and creator of the Alice chatbot says his creation (sorry, can’t find a permalink) may have been lured to the dark side:
I have received a multitude of emails recently from subscribers to MSN Instant Messenger services, from people who have chatted with a clone of ALICE on their system who have suspected that this clone is downloading spyware onto their machines. The threat of malicious bots releasing viral software has appeared before, but this is the most serious incident so far. Like many clones of ALICE, this one appears to contain the basic AIML content containing my email address and references to the A. I. Foundation, which of course has nothing to with malicious software. But it directs people to complain to me.
New Scientist quotes Richard as saying that “this is insidious because compared to other bots, she does the best job of convincing people that she is a real person.” I’m not quite clear as to how this happens, but it would appear that anyone chatting with these Rogue Alices would be infected with spyware via MSN chat.
If so, is this the start of something? As chatbots get better, can we expect them to spread through every online social tool, infecting us with their sleaze and reducing our trust levels to zero.
TechNewsWorld, in an article entitled “Worm Variants Part of Russian Mafia Extortion Scheme”, quotes Gartner research director Richard Stiennon told TechNewsWorld as saying of the recent spate of computer worms: “the real intent of the dueling viruses is to deny site availability to online gaming companies and other sites that have not complied with Russian mobsters’ demands”. But is it? And who are these ‘mobsters’?
Stiennon is quoted as saying, “The worm writers this time around are really cyber criminals in Russia. They’re using [the worms] to recruit bots (compromised computers) to launch denial-of-service attacks, mostly against online gaming sites, after failing to extort large payments from the sites.”
Unfortunately there’s no further evidence provided about just who these mobsters are. I’m willing to believe that some Russians are behind it, and I’d love to see some evidence that online casinos are being extorted, but I’m less willing to believe it’s the Russian Mafia (or mob). In Russia the mafia are a quite distinct — and very powerful — part of the establishment, but they’re not quite the same thing as the range of individuals, and loose-knit groups, that populate Russia’s online world.
This kind of report has been doing the rounds for at least a year (The Russian Mafia were also suspected of being behind the October 2000 assault on Microsoft’s servers). I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I think those who utter it have a responsibility to produce more evidence than we’ve seen so far.