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Are we losing the battle against bad bots?

By Matthew Giannelis posted Tue January 23, 2024 11:19 AM


A silent war is raging, and the question on everyone's mind is: Are we losing the battle against bad bots? Recent statistics and analysis shed light on the alarming reality, revealing that a staggering 73% of internet traffic is attributed to Bad Bots and other Malicious Bot types.

These virtual troublemakers seem to have a peculiar fondness for technology, constituting a substantial 76% of internet traffic in this domain. However, their presence is not limited to the tech realm; they have infiltrated other popular hangouts, accounting for 29% in gaming, 46% in social media, 65% in e-commerce, and 45% in financial services.

The true danger emerges when these bad bots disguise themselves as real users, essentially providing a virtual Swiss army knife to those manipulating them. It's not just hackers at play; rival companies may employ these bots to gain a competitive edge, while shady characters exploit them for scams.

The surge in artificial intelligence appears to be the matchmaker in this sinister affair, giving rise to 'scraping' bots designed to collect data and images from websites. Between Q1 and Q2 of 2023, scraping activity witnessed a staggering 432% increase. The precarious act of scraping social media accounts opens doors to the unauthorized gathering of personal data, fueling the proliferation of AI-generated phishing attacks.

But scraping operates in a legal gray zone, where its legality is contingent on adherence to a website's terms of use. While some services openly offer web scraping capabilities, the interconnected dance between CaaS (Crime-as-a-Service), AI, and bots remains a delicate balancing act, raising moral questions.

The first half of 2023 witnessed over 3 billion fraud farm attacks, concentrated mainly in Brazil, India, Russia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The rise of Bad Bots can be attributed to the emergence of AI, especially gen-AI, coupled with the increasing professionalism of the criminal underworld facilitated by CaaS.

As we step further into 2024, the ominous shadow of bad bot traffic looms large. Despite relentless efforts to fortify online defenses, these virtual adversaries persist, infiltrating the very essence of the internet. It is a call to action for the digital community to come together and devise innovative strategies to counter the ever-growing threat posed by bad bots, ensuring a safer and more secure digital future for all.

Types of bad bots 

Here are 10 types of bad bots:

  1. Web Scraping Bots: Designed to extract data from websites without authorization, these bots can violate terms of use and compromise the integrity of online content.

  2. Spambots: Responsible for creating and distributing spam across various online platforms, spambots can inundate users with unsolicited messages, advertisements, or malicious links.

  3. Credential Stuffing Bots: These bots automate the injection of large sets of username and password combinations to gain unauthorized access to user accounts, exploiting individuals who reuse passwords across multiple sites.

  4. Click Fraud Bots: Click fraud bots simulate human clicks on online advertisements, leading to inflated advertising costs for businesses and skewing performance metrics.

  5. Scalper Bots: Commonly found in the e-commerce sector, scalper bots quickly purchase large quantities of limited-stock items, creating artificial scarcity and driving up prices for resale.

  6. Social Media Bots: Engaged in activities such as fake likes, follows, and comments, social media bots manipulate engagement metrics, deceive users, and can be used to spread misinformation.

  7. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) Bots: Orchestrating large-scale distributed attacks, these bots overwhelm a target's server or network with traffic, causing service disruptions and downtime.

  8. Impersonator Bots: Mimicking real users, these bots can be used for identity theft, fraud, or spreading misinformation by impersonating trusted individuals or entities.

  9. Malicious Crawlers: These bots systematically explore websites, often with the intent of finding vulnerabilities or weaknesses that can be exploited for cyber attacks or unauthorized access.

  10. Spy Bots: Infiltrating systems to gather sensitive information, spy bots are designed to monitor user behavior, capture keystrokes, or access confidential data for malicious purposes.

Identifying and mitigating the impact of these diverse bad bots is crucial for maintaining a secure online environment and protecting users from various forms of cyber threats.

Watch Out for Bad Bots – They're Not Good for Business!

The Spread of Bad Bots: A Growing Concern for Businesses and Profits

The rise of Bad Bots is causing quite a stir, and it's not good news. These automated troublemakers engage in harmful activities like web scraping, credential stuffing, and click fraud. Their actions not only disrupt the normal flow of online operations but also mess with the integrity of digital platforms.

Experts are waving red flags about the financial havoc these Bad Bots wreak on businesses. Estimates suggest losses in the billions of dollars every year. These sneaky automated entities don't just deplete resources; they also chip away at customer trust and damage brand reputation.

The e-commerce world is taking a hit from Bad Bots, especially as they exploit vulnerabilities in online transactions. Fraudulent activities like creating fake accounts, hoarding inventory, and scraping prices are on the rise. This leads to inflated costs and creates an unfair playing field.

Businesses are now being strongly encouraged to step up their cybersecurity game to tackle the growing threat of Bad Bots. Implementing advanced security protocols, leveraging machine learning algorithms, and keeping a vigilant eye on operations are crucial to identifying and mitigating these threats in real-time.

It's not just businesses taking notice; government agencies and industry regulators are also getting involved. They're advocating for stricter regulations and penalties for those caught deploying or supporting malicious bot activities. It's time to stand against the Bad Bots and protect the online landscape for everyone.

Differences between good bots and bad bots

Bots engaging in improper use of online resources are classified as "bad." These range from malicious activities, such as infiltrating user accounts for data theft, to less harmful yet disruptive actions, such as purchasing concert tickets to aid scalping efforts.

Conversely, a bot providing valuable services falls into the category of "good." Examples include customer service chatbots, search engine crawlers, and performance monitoring bots. Good bots adhere to and comply with the guidelines specified in a website's robots.txt file.

Backups & bot mitigation tools are our best defense (CMS)

Bad bots, automated programs designed to perform malicious activities such as scraping content, spamming forms, or launching DDoS attacks, pose a significant threat to website integrity and user experience. However, implementing a robust defense strategy centered around backups and security protection tools can effectively thwart these malicious incursions.

Backups serve as a fundamental aspect of any comprehensive security strategy, offering a safety net against data loss or corruption caused by bot attacks or any other unforeseen events such as server crashes or human errors. By regularly backing up website data, including files, databases, and configurations, website owners can quickly restore their websites to a secure state in the event of a successful bot attack.

In conjunction with backups, employing security protection tools specifically designed to mitigate bot attacks can significantly enhance a website's defense posture. These tools utilize advanced algorithms and heuristics to detect and block suspicious bot activities in real-time, effectively thwarting potential threats before they can inflict harm.

One such exemplary tool tailored to backup WordPress sites is BlogVault. The cloud based solution not only offers comprehensive backup solutions, ensuring seamless data protection and recovery but also incorporates robust security features designed to combat bot attacks effectively. With features like real-time threat intelligence, firewall protection, and bot detection algorithms

Bad Bot Summary - 2024

In the ongoing battle against bad bots, the situation is critical but not hopeless. The proliferation of these automated troublemakers, engaging in activities like web scraping and click fraud, poses a significant threat to businesses and their bottom lines. The financial impact, estimated to be in the billions of dollars annually, is alarming, draining resources, eroding customer trust, and tarnishing brand reputations.

While the battle is challenging, there is hope. Government agencies and industry regulators are stepping in, advocating for stricter regulations and penalties against those involved in malicious bot activities.

As businesses and regulators join forces, there is potential to turn the tide against bad bots, preserving the integrity of online operations and fostering a safer digital landscape for all. The key lies in continued collaboration and proactive measures to stay ahead in this evolving battle.

Urged by the ongoing menace, businesses are diligently enhancing their cybersecurity measures, deploying advanced security protocols, and utilizing machine learning algorithms for real-time threat identification and mitigation in 2024.