It can be challenging for businesses to manage bots nowadays as there are numerous and some are good at disguising themselves as humans. Preventing bots from hindering your systems is key for securing your online business.
Today, we are sharing:
- Who is behind bad bots?
- Why bad bots are so difficult to detect
- What is bot detection? And why is it important?
- How to detect bots and bot attacks
- The benefits of bot detection
- Some shocking facts about bots
Who are behind bad bots and why are they difficult to detect?
Bad bots are not created by computers themselves. There will always be a person or organisation behind a bad bot. Whether there is a specific person out to get your business or a group that want to make money from fraud, it is possible for almost anyone to set up bots and use them to hinder businesses. Bots are easily accessible and inexpensive – many of which are now offered as a service, requiring little to no technical knowledge. They will likely be looking to hinder your online accounts so that they can access your money and other stored value like loyalty points and gift cards to make a profit.
Another reason for people creating bad bots is to shortcut their way to success. They will steal information from others that are successful in order to replicate their work and skip the hard parts. Their aim is to take away power and use it for themselves.
Ensuring that you know the difference between good and bad bots can result in safety or issues. You should only use and allow access to bots that you wish to allow or have set up yourself such as search engine crawlers or known partners allowed to scrape your site as part of an aggregator service.
What risks come with bad bots
There is very little risk to your organization’s safety from good bots. Unless you give over too much information or use one from a non-verified source, they will likely be safe.
However, there are multiple business risks that come from using bad bots.
- Account takeover: bad bots most commonly exploit stolen credentials to take over accounts, from social media to banking accounts. It is essentially identity theft and hackers can take over your account to post on your behalf or use your personal information such as credit cards for purchases.
- Slowed down website: some bad bots can increase the traffic to a website so much that the site will slow down or in the worst case, crash. If this happens, A slower website impacts the organic traffic to your site and hinders your SEO. If conversion rates reduce, then it may also impact your businesses profits.
- Inventory issues: bad bots can be designed to repeatedly add inventory to a basket on an e-commerce site. If this happens to your business, your inventory may sell out yet not have been purchased. Let’s say you have 50 of one item. If they are all added to a basket, then your stock will sell out and not show to real customers. The bot can repeatedly do this so that no inventory will ever show, which will reduce your sales and profits.
- Website scraping: seeing as some people produce bad bots to take over someone’s website and steal their success, some can scrap your website. If you haven’t backed up your site and information and it goes offline, there might be very little that you can do to get it back.
- Card data: financial motives are the most common reason people produce bad bots. Besides account takeover, carding attacks are a common threat as bad bots leverage automation to identify whether stolen credit card information can be used to make authorized purchases. This results in transaction processing and chargeback costs while damaging the brand of the merchant.
What is bot detection?
Bot detection is software that can detect unusual bot activity. It is an increasingly common security practice for businesses conducting business online.
Detecting a bot can prevent a company from being threatened and hacked. Instead of having to detect the bot yourself (a challenging endeavor), it will do the job for you.
Bot detection requires a strong client-side connection as well as a server-side connection. The client-side connection uncovers a contextual layer instantly and in real-time. Whereas the server-side connection uncovers contextual datasets that look into session activity. They are each other’s yin and yang and identify human or bot-like patterns to allow or deny entry. The speed of their actions is critical. The real-time data works to share information with one another to collect signals to identify whether the user can accurately identify as a human.
Using bot management solutions, you can identify bad bots and stop them from doing damage. Bot detection will detect unusual patterns and activities, in order to block them from hindering your personal safety and data.
How does bot detection work?
The anti-bot vendor injects scripts throughout the session. These scripts are specifically designed to collect data and send it back for analysis.
A rundown of how a bot detector works are as follows:
- Signals: bot detector software works by detecting and assessing signals around the clock. It will allow good and easy to identify bots to enter the system. However, if any signals seem suspicious, it will request more information or block them immediately.
- Custom rules: there are some custom rules that every bot (good or bad) has to follow in order to access a website. These simply include verification and whitelist approval. If a bot has whitelist approval, it will be allowed to enter the website. If it lacks approval, it will go on to the next step.
- Signatures: if a bot seems unusual or is not on the whitelist, then a type of signature will be required. This is typically a Captcha or JS challenge such as selecting images or answering a question to verify that you are a real person and/or safe bot.
- Response: should a bot still seem unusual and bad, then a response will be activated. Typically, bot detection will block the user and prevent them from entering the website.
Why you should use bot detection?
Bot detection exists for a good reason, to protect people and their data from hacking and other malicious activities. Due to that, there are many advantages of bot detection.
Controls malicious activity
Should your business be at risk of a hacker, a bot detector will control malicious activity. Although you can manually control the activity yourself, you may not be quick enough or you may spot it too late. The beauty of a bot detection system is that it will secure and protect your business for you.
Due to bot detection being technological, it offers real-time detection. As opposed to only being protected from bots on your computer systems during office hours when staff are on the computers, your business can be protected around the clock.
Bot detection works by assessing signals all day every day. Whether or not you are physically active, the bot detector will assess the signals in real-time and block them immediately.
Using bot detection can save your business a lot of time and hassle. Firstly, you won’t need to hire extra security to help you deal with bot issues. Plus, you will be able to reduce the amount of time spent sorting hacker issues as the bot detection will block any malicious attacks and prevent or reduce bad bot activity.
Bot detection is affordable to install and can save your company a whole lot of money in the long run.
Not only will your financial details be secure and hackers and carding attacks will be blocked, but you can also save money on security staff. Instead of paying someone to monitor your activity, bot detection will do it for you around the clock.
Boosts business performance
Bad bots can significantly slow down a businesses website. With bot detection and immediate blocking, your website will never have to worry. Instead of being slowed down through inventory issues or spam problems, your website can work at full capacity.
Boosting performance also involves enhancing visitor bounce and conversion rates. Your website will be much quicker, which will help keep customers engaged and encourage them to make a purchase.
Prevents data breaches
Malicious bots can instantly steal, spread, and hinder your data. With bot detection, you can prevent or reduce data breaches.
Instead of devoting hours each week looking over your data and preventing attacks, bot detection will increase the safety of your data and make you less vulnerable to hackers.
The most common use cases for bot detection
Bots can be detrimental to businesses. If you lack bot detection and/or do not stop malicious activity, then your business and its personal information and finances could be in a lot of trouble. Here are the four top reasons why bots are bad for business.
1. Fake account creation
Bots are commonly deployed to create fake accounts. If they manage to succeed, then you could have lots of fraudulent users using your business.
It is difficult to spot fake accounts yourself. If a bot uses a real name and information, then why would you think they are suspicious?
Some hackers create fake gift cards for sites, which can be used to checkout. This means that the business will not receive any money yet will be asked to ship out products.
2. Credential stuffing and Account takeover
3. Login fraud and Payment fraud
For websites that rely on clicks for sales, then a bot might hinder clickability or consume the number of clicks that the company pays for to be displayed on a website for advertising.
If your company is vulnerable to click fraud, then you may also be vulnerable to the clicks being diverted to another website. A hacker can set up a fake website and copy yours, which will look realistic to customers and hinder your sales.
4. Poor analytics
Bots make up more than half of global online traffic. Thus, you most likely have bots using your business website every day. Due to this, your analytics will likely be skewed and not accurate. You may assume that your business has gained 1,000 more visitors in one hour, which can cause false hope.
Accurate analytics are essential for businesses to stay on track and improve their business model. If the bots are increasing traffic one on-page, you might assume it is doing well when it might not be. It is important to prevent bots from using detectors in order to attain the most accurate analytics possible.
Being aware of how bots can be bad for business will hopefully encourage owners to tighten their security and use bot detection techniques. You can attain real-time help to block hackers and stop malicious attacks.
How bot detection can help different functions
Bot detection is beneficial for every industry that deals with online technology. From e-commerce stores to banks, using bot detection can save you time, money, and reduce the risk of hacking.
For some examples of how bot detectors works in different industries (and to see how it can benefit you), see below.
Helps travel companies be less vulnerable to scraping
Travel industries can gain advantages and disadvantages from bots. Let’s start with the positives.
Travel companies and their customer can use bots for shopping purposes. If a customer has a bot installed on price alerts, then they can book the deal when it is at its prime time. Customers can be alerted of price reductions and book at the right time to save money.
On the other hand, travel companies are vulnerable to bad bots through scraping. Many bad bots work to scrape data from travel websites to make fake queries and also to see how much they are charging. Both can hinder a travel companies time and money.
Prevents inventory issues in the e-commerce industry
The e-commerce industry is another that can benefit from good bots yet deal with issues from bad bots.
If a cybercriminal hacks a site and either causes inventory issues or scrapes the data, then money can be lost.
However, good bots can help increase sales. Similar to how bots work for the travel industry, customers can stay alerted of price reductions, which can spike sales when a promotion goes live.
Helps advertisers save money
Companies that advertise online are susceptible to overpaying for their click. Most online advertisement is done through clicks. A company will pay for a maximum amount of clicks on a website so that it can advertise there.
For instance, a food company might want to advertise on a grocery store website. They might pay for 1,000 clicks per day to stay at the top of the website in order to be seen by most customers. However, some bots can impersonate real people and click repeatedly, which means the 1,000 click mark will be hit quickly.
This can impact sales as the advert will finish or be placed lower on the website. Plus, the clicks will be fake and not reflect real people that should have converted into potential sales.
Shocking facts about bots
Although it is shocking enough that we already know that bad bots can cause malicious attacks and can impact a person’s personal or business finances, there are more shocking facts about bots to be aware of.
- In 2021, e-commerce fraud reached £20 billion due to bot activity: most hackers make their revenue through e-commerce fraud. This is done by hackers slowing down websites and reducing the reliability of customer service, which can significantly impact sales. E-commerce businesses can lose a lot of money due to bad bots.
- Almost half of the login attempts are caused by bad bots: have you ever received an email saying that your account has been compromised? Most of us receive these types of emails every month and this is due to so many bad bots attempting to login into various accounts.
- Half of the global traffic online is malicious: global online traffic is increasing every day and most of it comes from bad bots. Thus, half of the global online traffic is malicious and works to hack people’s personal information, finances, and business data.
- Most checkout page traffic is from bad bots: many bad bots are designed to cause inventory issues for e-commerce stores. Due to this, most checkout traffic is from bad bots, which never results in a sale.
How bots can attack certain online channels
Bots do not only work on computers, they also work on various channels. As technology has advanced, so has bot activity. There is more bot activity now than ever due to there being multiple digital devices that are vulnerable to malicious attacks and hacking.
There are three main channels that bots can attack:
The most common channel for bots to attack is APIs (application programming interface). These are the way in which systems talk to one another. Typically, it is how one computer talks to another. However, it can also refer to mobile devices.
If a bot can manage to mimic a real user, it can hack the computer that one is communicating with. The computer will assume that is a real-life and trustworthy computer. Thus, it will allow the bot to access its system.
Mobile apps are newer to the market than APIs and other channels. However, they are becoming the most hacked and vulnerable channel for bots.
Security is not as effective on mobile apps as the mobile phone user may lack knowledge or care to install efficient security measures. Thus, their phone and their apps become vulnerable.
If a hacker compromises a mobile app, it can take a lot of information from passwords to bank details.
Hackers commonly deploy bot activity on websites. Bot activity on websites varies from login attempts to scraping. Hackers might try to access someone’s e-commerce account to purchase goods. Or, it might work to scrape the website’s data to mimic it and impersonate the information elsewhere. This can compromise the businesses security as well as customers.
Seeing as most attacks come through the web, it is vital to enhance your bot detection measures to prevent attacks.
Bot detection techniques
Now that you know everything there is to know about good bots and bad bots, how they work, and how bot detectors can help your business, let’s move on to the most common bot detection techniques.
Bot mitigation is essential to protect your business from bad bots. Mitigating bot activity is not an easy process, especially if you lack the knowledge of how to block bad bots. Thus, allowing bot detectors to do it for you will ensure that your business and information can be protected at all times.
Below are the most effective and common bot mitigation techniques for you to use:
Using a Captcha is the most common way to prevent bad bots. Typically, the Captcha box will ask you to tick the box to verify that you are a human. Robots and digital bots cannot detect Captcha boxes. Nor can they tick them. Thus, they are an effective way to prevent bad bots from entering websites, scraping information, or hacking systems.
Invisible challenges are another way to verify that you are a human and not a bot. Again, bots cannot detect invisible information. They can only detect information that is permanent.
Invisible challenges are interactive and ask the user to move their mouse and click on actions.
Block it manually
A less advanced way of mitigating bots is by blocking them manually. Although this doesn’t use bot detection, it can work. If you ever witness malicious or bad activity, then you should report it to your business and block it yourself. If you are unsure how to block the bot and stop the activity, ask a member of the IT team.
Use fake data
If you do ever witness a bad bot on your system, it can be a good idea to feed it fake data. It will take in any information you give it. Thus, giving them data that opposes your business, will deter them from getting the information that they are after. Or, that could hinder your business.
Following this guide, you should have all you need to know about bot detection, and how to detect and stop bad bots. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact us so we can help you with your bot detection and mitigation needs.