Bad bot traffic rose by 18.1% in 2019, and it now accounts for nearly one-quarter of all internet traffic
The figure above, which comes from Imperva’s 2020 Bad Bot Report, should come as a warning to all or any internet users, especially companies and organizations that maintain their own infrastructure online to require this problem seriously.
The pervasiveness of malicious bots (or “bad bots” for short) not only places additional strain on networks and results in additional infrastructure costs, but it also indicates rampant cyberattacks and malicious activities that are committed by cybercriminals and threat groups.
Imperva’s report even reveals concerning trends like attempts to rebrand bad bots as legitimate services, the expansion of massive credential stuffing attacks being administered by malicious actors using bots, and therefore the increasing complexity of bot operations. Considering these developments, it’s only prudent to know what bad bots are and the way to fight them.
What Are Internet Bots and the way Are They Used?
Graphic illustration representing internet bots
Simply put, internet bots are software applications that are designed to automate many tedious and mundane tasks online. They’ve become an integral part of what makes the web tick and are employed by many internet applications and tools.
For example, internet search engines like Google believe bots that crawl through web pages to index information. Bots undergo many web pages’ text to seek out and index terms that these pages contain. So, when a user searches for a specific term, the program will know which pages contain that specific information.
Travel aggregators use bots to continuously check and gather information on flight details and bedroom availabilities so that they will display the foremost up-to-date information for users. this suggests that users not got to check different websites individually. The aggregators’ bots consolidate all of the knowledge, allowing the service to display the info all directly.
Thanks to developments in AI and machine learning, bots also are getting used to finishing more complex tasks. Business intelligence services use bots to crawl through product reviews and social media comments to supply insights on how a specific brand is perceived.
How Bots Can Positively (and Negatively) Impact Your Organization
Imagine if these tasks were done manually by a person’s. it might be a quite slow and error-prone process. By using bots, these tasks are completed quickly and more accurately. This frees up your organization’s “human assets” to collaborate and specialize in higher-level projects and goals.
Bots have an impression on the infrastructure of internet sites and applications they are available in contact with. Since bots essentially “visit” websites, they consume computing resources like server loads and bandwidth. due to this, even these good bots can inadvertently cause harm. An aggressive program or aggregator bot can take down a site with limited resources. Fortunately, proper site configuration can prevent this from happening.
What Are Bad Bots?
In general, bot activity is already something that the majority of organizations are handling for years. However, what’s worrisome is that the traffic that comes from the “bad bots” — the bots that are appropriated by malicious actors to function tools for various hacking and fraud campaigns.
The most common uses for bad bots include:
- Web scraping — Hackers can steal web pages by crawling websites and copying their entire contents. Fake or fraudulent sites can use the stolen content to seem legitimate and trick visitors.
- Data harvesting — apart from stealing entire websites’ content, bots also are wont to harvest specific data like personal, financial and get in touch with information which will be found online.
- Price scraping — Product prices also can be scraped from e-commerce websites so that they will be employed by companies to undercut their competitors.
- Brute-force logins and credential stuffing — Malicious bots interact with pages containing log-in forms and plan to gain access to sites by trying out the different username and password combinations.
- Digital ad fraud — Hackers can game pay-per-click (PPP) advertising systems by using bots to “click” on ads on a page. Unscrupulous site owners can earn from these fraudulent clicks.
- Spam — Bot also can automatically interact with forms and buttons on websites and social media pages to go away phony comments or false product reviews.
Distributed denial-of-service attacks — Malicious bots are often wont to overwhelm a network or server with immense amounts of traffic. Once the allotted resources are used, sites and applications supported or hosted by the network will become inaccessible to legitimate users.
Hackers also are becoming more sophisticated and artistic in how they use these bots. To start, they’re designing bots that are capable of circumventing conventional bot mitigation solutions, thus making them harder to detect. Some enterprising parties even create seemingly legitimate services out of bad bots. Bots are often wont to help buyers get before queues in time-sensitive transactions like buying edition products or event tickets.
Hackers can perform these activities on a huge scale because through the utilization of massive botnets, which are networks composed of devices capable of running bots. Many of those devices are compromised from previous hacks. The Mirai botnet, which is liable for several massive denial-of-service attacks, consists of tens of thousands of compromised internet-of-things (IoT) devices like IP cameras and routers.
To put it succinctly, industries are affected by these bad bots. consistent with an equivalent Imperva report, the toughest hit sectors are financial services (47.7%), education (45.7%), IT and services (45.1%), and marketplaces (39.8%) — industries where bots look to breach accounts through brute force, steal property, and scrape prices, respectively.
Don’t Get Phished.
Malicious Bots: How can we Fight Them?
Falling victim to bad bots can have serious consequences. apart from the computing resources it consumes, bot traffic can affect business performance. Price scraping can leave businesses at a pricing disadvantage against their competitors. Content scraping can hurt search rankings. Spam can affect a site’s image and credibility within the eyes of search engines.
Getting breached can open up networks to other sorts of cyberattacks including data theft and ransomware. Clearly, steps must be taken to stop them from running rampant.
Here are three critical measures to fight back against these bad bots:
1. Recognize the matter
Organizations must be proactive in handling bad bots. This starts with recognizing and identifying the matter. IT teams can assess if their networks are being attacked by bots by taking a glance at their web analytics and review their traffic.
Bad bots graphic that shows a breakdown of website traffic for bots and humans
Spikes in bandwidth consumption and log-in attempts are often signs of increased bot activities. Traffic from unusual countries of origin also can hint at bad bots probing a site for vulnerabilities. Checking IP addresses and geolocations of traffic sources can reveal potential bot activity.
Bad bots graphic that’s a visible breakdown of worldwide traffic by region
The business performance also can be a sign of malicious bot activity. as an example, a sudden drop by conversion rates for e-commerce sites can allude to cost scraping.
2. Employ Defensive and Protective Measures
Organizations must adapt and enhance cybersecurity measures that protect their respective infrastructure. Among the simplest practices to implement are:
Using robots.txt. A robots.txt file placed within the index of an internet site can prevent bots like program crawlers from overloading it with requests. The file essentially tells bots which pages are to be included within the crawl. However, it’s important to notice that using robots.txt only helps with mostly legitimate crawlers that support such directives and don’t necessarily keep bad bots out. Still, this will help prevent overly aggressive crawlers from taking sites down.
Using challenges to differentiate between human users and bot traffic. Bots are often programmed to automatically fill out forms to spam or credential stuff websites and web applications. Using challenges that need human input or user validation like CAPTCHA can help prevent bots from properly executing their intended hacks.
Adopting network protection solutions. In most cases, organizations should take a position in additional advanced sorts of protection. Cloud application security solutions and cloud-based web application firewalls (WAFs) now employ advanced methods to prevent bot traffic from even interacting with a site. These solutions are capable of identifying and blocking bots consistent with their behaviors, origins, and signatures. Some industry-leading solutions are even capable of preventing massive DDoS attacks from causing any downtime to sites under their protection.
Deploying strict access controls. Multi-factor authentication requires users to supply additional credentials like one-time-passwords (OTP). These are often implemented to discourage bot attacks like credential stuffing. Using identity and access management (IAM) also allows administrators to strictly define which resources within their network are often accessed by specific user accounts. This way, within the event that a bot “cracks” the credentials of 1 account, its access to the network remains limited (thereby minimizing the potential damage).
3. Monitor and Test Security
It’s important to constantly monitor and test the behavior of all security measures that are put in situ. Misconfiguration or faulty implementation does happen. As such, checks like penetration tests and attack simulations should be performed routinely to verify if the measures work as intended. Adopting even the foremost expensive tools and solutions would only cause waste if they’re improperly configured.
Bad bots graphic: Google reCAPTCHA image showing the number of site requests and site traffic to assist identify suspicious activity
It’s also crucial to check if the measures are harming business goals. Poorly configured bot detection can prevent good bots from getting through. Blocking program crawlers can instantly tank a site’s ranking. If a site relies on partnerships with aggregators to drive their business, inadvertently blocking aggregator bots can likewise break the service altogether.
Final Thoughts on Bad Bots
Site owners should pay close attention to their traffic considering how malicious bots still run rampant. Left unchecked, bad bot traffic can evolve from a nuisance to something more serious like a full-on cyber attack in no time. Knowing the way to mitigate bad bot traffic can help to safeguard your infrastructure and make a safer internet for everybody.
Source: the cyber post