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Do Chatbots Pose the Next Big Cybersecurity Risk?

Chatbot or chat robot is a piece of software that uses algorithm to recognize human generated text and provide an automatic response based on various artificial intelligence protocols that makes sense.

This type of communication can be used in wide range of activities that are a part of different industry sectors. For now, chatbots are mainly used to generate automated responses in the customer service department of almost any company.

Remember the “Thanks for waiting, how can I help you?” note you get once you’re connected with a customer support representative online? That’s what chatbots do.

Till now, companies tried to use chatbots to decrease employee workload, but recent developments in the world of technology made us think about all the possibilities hidden behind this unique way of real time communication.

The Turing Test

Back in 2011 a chatbot called Clever Bot, tried to “beat” the Turing Test at the Techniche summit held in India.

The results were astonishing. The algorithm supporting the bot was exactly 59.3% human according to the test, which was close to the 63.3% scored by the average human being.

Things get even better.

In 2014 a journalist in China interviewed, what he thought was a 17 year old online celebrity. The girl’s name was Xiaoice and the journalist tried to find out why doesn’t she get mad when people insult her online. One of her answers was:

“You should ask my father”.

Afterwards, the newspaper found out how Xiaoice (literal translation: Microsoft Little Ice) was actually a chatbot created by Microsoft and the East Asia Service Group, which acted as the father figure in the given example.

This chatbot is now able to give well prepared answers sounding close to what human beings say.

Some users of WeChat say how they needed more than 15 minutes to find out they’re talking to a machine.

Xiaoice evolved since then and is now capable of recognizing images, learn from its behavior, learn from the people she contacts, and add emotions as a factor in the conversation.

The Danger

If you’re a vivid anime fan, you’ve probably recognized the possibilities chatbots can bring to the world. The creation of humanoid robots, doesn’t feel so far fetched suddenly, does it?

The real problem is there are people out there that see chatbots as a tool for breaching security protocols.

We’ve talked a lot about phishing attacks, so imagine a world where this process is automated by a robot capable of storing all the data you provide on a server somewhere.

Automating the process of communication is a powerful idea, but it also has security breach points of risk.

Imagine if a chatbot can send thousands of mails in a second to addresses gathered from public directories. This sounds frightening.

Now think of what else this chatbot can achieve.

  •         Analyzing data gathered from your response.
  •         Continuing the conversation.
  •         Giving you the idea you’re communicating with a real person.
  •         Storing all the data you provide.
  •         Learning from this data,
  •         Taking further action.

The perfect chatbot could contact you, gather some personal information through meaningful conversation, and send you an offer for that sky jet you’ve always wanted.

Although chatbots have a funny sounding name, they have huge potential if implemented correctly. If on the other hand, they land in the hands of hackers and online attackers, they can be used as a powerful weapon against people using the Internet, and at some point this will be the entire human race.