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The Rising Challenge of Bot Protection in Cybersecurity

With billions of active users across the globe, the internet is a force for information, connection, and functionality. Yet, not every connection that accesses the internet is real – with just as many bots navigating the web, consuming business resources, and overloading company resources.

As businesses increasingly have to contend with botted traffic online, understanding how to develop effective bot protection is vital. In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about online bots, covering the different bots you’re likely to encounter (the good and the bad), common cyberattack strategies that use botting, and how to keep your organization safe from harm.

The Many Types of Online Bots

While many individuals may instantly think of malicious bots and the potential cyber risks they can pose, not all bots are dangerous. In fact, many bots are actually useful and form an integral part of internet infrastructure. The reason you’re able to read this article, for example, is because the GoogleBot was able to crawl the webpage, index its content, and present it to you when you searched for relevant information.

Each type of bot has a unique function, structure, and range of capabilities. Especially as new emerging technologies add functionality, bots are able to achieve a more extensive range of actions. Here are some of the most common bots that you’re likely to come across:

  • Spider Bots: Spider bots are one of the most common forms of online bots and help search engines to collect data. The aforementioned GoogleBot falls into this category, as does BingBot, Yahoo’s Slurp bot, and the Baiduspider.
  • Web Scrapers: Web scrapers scan through online pages and harvest their information. While the practice of web scraping is currently a bit of a grey area, it can be used to mass-extract useful information. However, the recent controversy about web scraping to use data for AI training has been a common talking point.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots are software programs that humans can type questions to. In line with advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), these are becoming increasingly effective at answering questions and helping with human queries. Most commonly, you see these on company customer support pages.
  • Social Media Bots: Social bots flood social media sites like X (formerly Twitter) to generate fake traffic, leave false reviews, and inflate the popularity of certain accounts or posts. Recent data from Mashable suggests that over 75% of traffic to advertising clients’ websites over the Super Bowl weekend came from social media bots.
  • Spam Bots: Spam bots are a form of web scraper that collects phone numbers and email addresses. Malicious actors then send out phishing links or spam information to the contact information they’ve collected.
  • Monitoring Bots: Monitoring bots on websites or hardware systems use sensors to check and follow the overall health of the system they serve. If anything goes wrong with the system or if it isn’t performing optimally, it can alert the server administrator.
  • Download Bots: Download bots create false download requests to inflate the download statistics of an application or software. Malicious actors also use them to send download requests to overload servers in line with denial of service attacks and other traffic-based disruption strategies.

The rising use of web scraping to collect training data for AI models is bringing more attention to the use of bots online. Equally, advances in technology due to the progression of AI are generating more opportunities for malicious bots to create issues for businesses.

A Multi-Faceted Threat

Although there are numerous use cases of bots that help sustain positive practices and underpin the internet as we know it, there is a rising number of malicious use cases. As a technology that can run on mass, malicious actors can use bots to perform certain tasks either faster than is humanly possible or at volumes that create server-side problems.

There are several core threats and real-world issues that bots create:

  • Product and Ticket Scalping: Scalping is the practice of buying a product that has a limited quantity as rapidly as possible whenever it comes out. Bots can take up 1000s of positions in queues for tickets, for example, and rapidly select seats in an arena and check out. From there, the bot owners can resell the products or tickets at a much higher value.
  • DDoS Attacks: Hackers can gain access to thousands of devices around the globe by infecting them with bot software. They can then activate these bots at once, overwhelming a site with fake traffic to stop actual customers from accessing it. Malicious actors use the same strategy with download bots to overload a system and stop the server from being able to deliver downloadable files.
  • Spam: Whether via social media or spam content sent directly to you via email, spam bots can frustrate individuals and consume business resources.

As bots are becoming more common and accessible to hackers, it’s vital that businesses are aware of how to protect themselves, their customers, and their resources from harm’s way.

Managing the Bot Threat

One of the primary methods that businesses can use to protect themselves from bots is anti-bot software. Bot detection technology can automatically create challenges that impede bot activity while also enhancing bot monitoring technology. With anti-bot services, your business can protect all of its access points and defend against any bot activity on your site.

Bot detection, paired with other modern cybersecurity defenses, will help keep websites safe and free from fake traffic. Not only does this ensure your business always has resources available for real customers, but it also prevents DDoS attacks and other nefarious activities.



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