Combine the social nature of chat rooms with the whims of fate in Roulette and you have Chatroulette, the recent brainchild of 17-year old Andrew Ternovskiy. Tapping into the public’s love of novelty, exhibitionism, and quick fixes of entertainment, Chatroulette allows users to video-chat with strangers, clicking over to the next, possibly more attractive or willing, stranger with impunity. The camera can be disabled, but this act would largely defeat the purpose of the illicit thrills.
If, though, the camera were disabled, couldn’t Chatroulette become another forum for the cyberattacks of flirt bots? A flirt bot, a malicious software program, attempts to flirt with you through online messaging. The chats make sense because the software is sophisticated enough to tailor its responses to your answers. The cybercriminals behind flirt bots use them to spread malicious links, often inviting you to another fake site that will download malware onto your computer.
The danger lies in the type of chat in which one engages on Chatroulette. When flirt bots first surfaced, it was so easy to warn people of the risks involved with interacting with people online: “Don’t respond to strangers.” “Be suspicious of obvious come-ons.” “Don’t leave the initial chat room for a more private conference.” These rules don’t apply here. When you only have a few seconds to make an impression, it likely will be bold and overtly provocative.
Chatroulette has a few kinks to work out—age restrictions, for one—but users cannot depend solely upon a website to safeguard their internet security. Experts continually stress making intelligent choices online, and the same goes for browsing responsibly. It’s unfortunate that for every online venture, there’s a way for cybercriminals to exploit and profit, but we in turn need to be cyber-savvy by increasing our awareness of potential threats.