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 is behind bad bots and why is it difficult to detect bots?
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 types of sensitive data should I be concerned about protecting from bots?
Sensitive data includes any information that could put your business or customers at high risk if it were compromised. (Ex. Personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, or proprietary business information)
It’s critical that you block bots within a short period of time. Many web application firewalls (WAFs) include real-time monitoring capabilities that allow them to quickly identify and block suspicious traffic, including bot traffic. A web application firewall is a security solution designed to protect web applications from various types of attacks. It works by analyzing incoming traffic and blocking any requests that are deemed malicious.
What risks come with bad bots
There is very little risk to your organization’s safety from helpful bots. They are legitimate automated programs that perform useful tasks such as search engine crawlers or content aggregation tools. These are usually identified through their IP ranges or other characteristics that distinguish them from bad actors.
Bad actors are individuals or organizations that use bots for malicious purposes. They may use bots to scrape information from your website, launch DDoS attacks, or steal sensitive data.
IP ranges are groups of IP addresses that are associated with a particular geographic location or organization. In the context of bot detection, IP ranges can be used to block known bad actors or suspicious IPs.
Unless you give over too much information or use bots 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?
We’ll explain bot detection in a way that makes sense:
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.
IP addresses are used as part of this process. Bots often use static IP addresses that you can track and monitor. Bot detection systems analyze the IP addresses associated with requests to determine whether it is being made by a human or a bot. Once identified, you can block the IP address from accessing the server.
When IP addresses are blocked from accessing a server, any requests from that IP address will be denied. This helps protect the server from malicious bots and unauthorized access. Blocking IP addresses can help prevent automated attacks or data scraping by malicious actors.
Domain names can play a role in bot detection because some bots use suspicious or illegitimate URLs. For example, some bots may use ones similar to legitimate websites but with slight variations, such as adding an extra letter or using a different top-level domain.
The Google Cloud Platform offers a range of tools and services that can be used to detect and prevent bot activity. For example, Google Cloud Armor can be used to create custom rules that block traffic from known bot networks or IP addresses associated with malicious activity.
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. Detecting a large number of bots is crucial because it can indicate suspicious behavior on your website. If left unchecked, bot traffic can cause significant damage to your website and business.
Bot management involves employing a range of strategies, such as whitelisting techniques, honeypots, and CAPTCHAs, to identify and stop malicious bots before they can cause any damage. By combining both approaches, organizations can protect their digital assets from bot attacks.
Bot management can present several challenges for organizations. For example, many bots are designed to hide their malicious behavior from detection, making it difficult for security teams to identify them, even with the help of sophisticated data analysis techniques. Bot management systems may be unable to keep track of all the changing and evolving activities of malicious bots in real-time. As a result, identifying and mitigating bot activity can require a significant investment in resources and technology, which can be cost-prohibitive for some organizations.
With the right bot management solution, businesses can improve website performance and increase security. There are various types of bot management solutions available today, including:
AI-Based Bot Management Solutions: AI-based bot management solutions use machine learning (ML) algorithms to identify and block malicious bots in real time. They also allow businesses to customize their bot detection configurations to meet the specific needs of their organization.
API Gateways: API gateways are designed to secure application programming interfaces (APIs) by monitoring request traffic for malicious activity. By limiting access to authenticated users only, API gateways can help reduce the risk of malicious bots attacking a business’s APIs.
Rule-Based Bot Management Solutions: Rule-based bot management solutions operate using a predefined set of rules that define how incoming bot traffic is managed on a website or application. They are usually less expensive compared to AI-based solutions but may not be as effective at detecting sophisticated bots.
Choosing the right bot management solution is key for protecting web applications and websites from malicious activities. If your organization doesn’t have a bot management process in place, now is the time to implement one.
How does bot detection work?
Bot detection works by analyzing web traffic and identifying patterns that indicate human behavior or automated bots. You can use various methods, such as Google reCAPTCHA, AWS cloud services, IP reputation checks, and historical data analysis.
IP reputation refers to the perceived trustworthiness of an IP address based on its past behavior. By analyzing an IP’s reputation, you can determine whether it is likely associated with malicious activity and take steps to block it accordingly.
You can use historical data to identify patterns and trends in bot traffic. By analyzing this data, you can better understand how bots are interacting with your website and take steps to block them more effectively.
However, Kasada offers the most sophisticated bot detection solution. We identify and prevent malicious bots before they are ever allowed to enter your infrastructure. It does this by detecting malicious bots client-side in real-time by assuming that every request is guilty until proven innocent.
What makes Kasada different when compared with a lot of the outdated solutions used today is that we make bots do the work, rather than humans. We don’t use inconvenient and ineffective CAPTCHA, which cause users to get frustrated. Instead, we use cryptographic challenges to cleverly deter bot traffic, making it expensive and arduous for bots to continue their attacks.
Let’s take a look at how Kasada’s bot detection works in further detail:
- Client Interrogation – We inspect all client requests for evidence of automation that bots leave when they interact with applications. We search for automation frameworks and headless browsers. Inferencing will determine whether the request has come from a good bot, bad bot, or human. We also use our own polymorphic method to obfuscate sensors so we can spot reverse engineering attempts. It is important to point out that this entire process is invisible to humans.
- Mitigative Actions – We take a number of mitigative actions, including cryptographic challenges, customizable responses, and we fight automation with automation. Essentially, we make it way too difficult, long-winded, and expensive for bots to carry out attacks, which not only stops bot attacks now but in the future.
- Threat Intelligence – We assess all sensor and request data, carrying out extensive analysis of traffic patterns and adversarial techniques. We add any learnings from our data to the client inspection process in real-time without any need for code upgrades.
Machine learning (ML) plays a vital role in bot detection. Bot detection systems use ML algorithms to analyze patterns and behaviors of website visitors, to differentiate between human users and bots. You can achieve this by training the machine learning model on a large dataset of human behavior and using that model to identify patterns indicative of bot activity.
For example, a bot may visit a website more frequently than a human user, or it may not interact with the website in the same way as a human (such as not clicking on links). Machine learning models can be trained to recognize these patterns and leverage that information to flag suspicious activity for further investigation.
Using machine learning for bot detection, websites can continuously learn and adapt to new attacks, helping to stay ahead of evolving threats.
Bot detection works differently with mobile applications and web applications. In mobile applications, the software analyzes device-level attributes such as device type, location, and behavior patterns. Mobile devices have unique characteristics that can be used to identify bots. Social media platforms use various methods to detect and prevent the spread of bots.
In web applications, bot detection is done by analyzing network-level attributes such as IP address, user agent string, and behavior patterns. Since web applications are accessed through a browser, it’s easier to track these attributes and identify bots.
In both cases, machine learning algorithms are used for bot detection. These algorithms analyze large amounts of data to identify patterns that are indicative of bot activity. Once a bot is detected, various actions can be taken such as blocking the IP address or sending a CAPTCHA challenge to verify that the user is human.
Why you should use bot detection?
Without bot detection, your web application is at high risk of being attacked by bad actors who use automated bots to exploit vulnerabilities in your system. These bots can cause a large number of requests that can overwhelm your server, leading to poor user experience or even downtime.
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 malicious bots 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 use cases for bad bots.
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
Credential stuffing involves automatically injecting stolen password and username pairs into log-in forms to fraudulently gain access to a user’s account.
As a lot of people use the same username and password combinations again and again, hackers are typically able to gain access to all of a person’s accounts once they have got the right combination.
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.
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.
On the flip side, malicious actors can use mobile tools for automated bots just like desktop computers. However, some features, such as mouse movements and keyboard input, may not be available on mobile, which makes it harder for bots to mimic human behavior.
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.
How does bot detection affect user experience?
Bot detection should not affect user experience if implemented correctly. By analyzing web traffic in real-time and blocking only suspicious activity, users should not notice any difference in their browsing experience.
Implementing a robust bot protection system is crucial for maintaining the security of your web application while ensuring a positive user experience.
Can malicious actors use fake data to trick bot detection systems?
Fake data can be used by some sophisticated automated bots to mimic human behavior and bypass simple bot protection measures. However, advanced WAFs that use machine learning algorithms can identify these types of attacks and block them accordingly.
Implementing a robust bot protection system is crucial for maintaining the security of your web application while ensuring a positive user experience.
Techniques to detect bots
Now that you know everything there is to know about helpful 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. However, given that every human on the planet hates them and they aren’t effective at blocking bots, why are CAPTCHAs still a thing? Contrary to opinion, Captcha isn’t an effective means to detecting bots. Services such as 2CAPTCHA ensure that CAPTCHAs present no obstacles to semi-technical bot builders. As a bot builder, you can bypass Captcha for less than $1 per 1,000 solved CAPTCHAs. So now the cheap and easy security control is frustrating your paying customers, but not the fraudsters. They are an ineffective way to prevent bad bots from entering websites, scraping information, or hacking systems.
Invisible challenges are another way to verify that traffic has not come from a bad bot. Bots cannot detect invisible information. They can only detect information that is permanent. Certain invisible challenges are able to ramp their difficulty exponentially using a cryptographic proof-of-work in-order to make automated attacks CPU intensive, thereby too expensive to conduct.
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 as an interim measure until a specialized solution is put in place. 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. Be aware this can be a short-term solution as advanced bot-builders are prone to discover your fake responses.
Ready to Get Started with Bot Detection?
We hope that this has helped you to get a better understanding of who is behind bad bots. As you can see, there are threats from all angles when it comes to bad bots, so it is vital to use a bot detection and management solution to ensure you are protected. Why not run our instant bot detection test now to see if your website can detect bots? Or, if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch for more information.