The Risk of Bad Bots

A bad bot is a type of bot that has been programmed to perform a number of malicious jobs. They tend to work in an evasive manner, typically being used by cybercriminals, fraudsters, and nefarious parties that are engaged in illegal and immoral activities.

A lot of businesses do not realize just how severe the threat of a bad bot is. Not only could your security be compromised but bad bots can impact your profits, reputation, and the future of your business.

Below, we will help you to understand the real threat of bad bots and the consequences they can have, as well as the ways you can protect your business from this.

Bad bots are a real threat: Making up a large portion of online traffic

With everyone shopping, working, and living online these days, online traffic is surging. However, it is not only made up of legitimate users. More than one-third of all Internet traffic is automated, with a large chunk of this automated traffic being made up of bad bots.

Our research has revealed that a minimum of one-quarter of all online traffic is made up of bad bot operators leveraging automation at scale.

This is something one of our customers, True Alliance, was facing before using our solution. Regan MacDonald, the Group IT Manager at True Alliance, said the following:

“Almost all types of fraud hitting our websites use bots today. Over the past years, we have seen malicious automation grow in volume and sophistication. Our revenue was at risk, our website performance and customer experience were getting hit, and our IT costs were increasing as we were trying to keep up with the malicious traffic.”

What are the different ways bad bots can cause havoc?

There are so many problems that bad bots can cause today, including the likes of:

Account Takeover (ATO)

This is when a cybercriminal gains access to your personal details and uses them to unlock your bank account. They can use hacker bots or scraper bots to get vital information from websites or network systems, meaning they’re able to use your pin code or bank details to make payments and withdraw money.

From a business perspective, this is damaging to you on two accounts. Firstly, cybercriminals can make fraudulent purchases on your website, which will then be discovered and refunded to the victim. Therefore, you will lose money from purchases that you thought were legitimate. Secondly, if data is stolen from your site and many of your customers suffer from identity theft, it looks bad on you and your reputation is ruined.

Application DDoS

DDoS attacks are becoming increasingly common and a popular method for hackers to bring down a server or network service. DDoS stands for distributed denial-of-service, and it refers to instances where bots flood a server with so much traffic that it can’t maintain its performance. As a result, the server goes down, leading to delays and increased downtime.

Already, this is damaging as it means you miss out on lots of potential traffic, which could be converted into leads and sales, etc. Also, things like ongoing ad campaigns continue to run, but you see no benefits as your site is down. To make matters worse, hackers will often keep your network offline until you pay them to release their bots and let you bring the server back up.

Denial of Inventory

Denial of Inventory involves automated bots taking products out of circulation by adding them to a user’s basket. The purpose of this is to prevent genuine consumers from purchasing the item. The threat actor does not have any intention of completing the checkout process, but they are maliciously trying to stop other people from buying the products in question.

Carding

Very similar to account takeover, only carding refers to fraudulent payments via credit cards. If this happens all the time on your site, it can leave you with a poor merchant history that makes it impossible to accept credit card payments in the future.

Cracking

Cracking is a term used to describe when someone carries out a security hack for malicious or criminal reasons. The person behind the incident is called a “cracker.” It is all about accessing things you should not have and reaching places you should not be. Examples include network cracking, password cracking, and software cracking.

Web Scraping

Web scraping involves utilizing bots to extract data and content from a website. Unlike screen scraping, which will only copy pixels that are displayed onscreen, web scraping is able to extract the HTML code that lays beneath the surface, and with this, the data stored in the database. This means the scraper is able to replicate the full content on the site elsewhere.

There can be legitimate uses of web scraping, for example, web scraping can be used by marketing research businesses to pull data from social media and forums. Price comparison websites also make the most of bots to fetch prices and product descriptions automatically.

However, web scraping can also be used for malicious reasons, for example, to steal copyrighted content or to undercut prices. If you are targeted by a scraper, your business may end up experiencing significant monetary losses, particularly if your business deals in content distribution or heavily depends on competitive pricing models.

Stolen websites

Scraper bots can basically replicate and “steal” your entire website by extrapolating all of the information from it and using it to build a different site. From here, the cybercriminals responsible can steal lots of web traffic from your site, meaning your business gets fewer leads and might make fewer sales.

Additionally, scraper bots are often used to take prices from your site and then use this data to undercut you. As a result, other businesses offer the same products/services at a much lower price than yours, costing you more customers and money.

It’s also common for scraper bots to steal content from other sites and place it on theirs. Again, this is harmful to your website as it means the scraper site benefits from your content, driving traffic to it. Even worse, it looks like your site has duplicate content, which hits you with an SEO penalty and moves you further down the rankings, getting less traffic.

Spam reviews

Bad bots have also been used by rival businesses to leave false reviews on websites. This can deter other consumers from buying products as it makes your service look poor because of the bad reviews. Again, you lose out on revenue and struggle to find new customers.

Political persuasion

Impersonator bots are often used by politicians to get their points across. They present themselves as social media users, typically posting about political topics and showing support for a certain party. The party themselves could commission these bots, or avid supporters can do it without their permission. You also see bots retweeting or liking tweets that politicians have made, making their points seem more popular than they are.

As such, bad bots present a serious risk to society as they can influence the election results. It is generally agreed that these bots spread disinformation and will often prey on the less informed, making them believe things that aren’t true.

Fraudulent ads

Speaking of ad campaigns, bad bots are used to disrupt them in a couple of ways. Owners of PPC advertising sites may use bots to provide loads of fraudulent clicks on adverts through their system. In turn, clients will be paying them for every click, not knowing that the majority of the clicks are fake.

Similarly, bots can be used to drive up the cost of advertising by generating these clicks. The more clicks there are, the higher the industry rates will be, and someone will profit.

Inventory pileup

Hacker bots will often be programmed to visit an e-commerce site and add as many products to the basket as possible. As a result, these products now come up as out-of-stock on the website, meaning other shoppers can’t purchase them.

For a business, this means you are missing out on sales as people go to buy things, but there’s apparently no stock available. Therefore, they might visit a rival site and make a purchase there instead.

Bad Bots

The consequences of bad bots

Sadly, bad bot traffic will not only impact your security posture but it can have a devastating impact on your budget as well.

Bad bots can make a severe dent in your budget

Essentially, you are funding all of the non-human traffic to your online channels – a cost that will never yield any real consumer engagement, sales, or leads.

Downtime caused by denial of service (DoS) can also be very expensive. According to Gartner, costs range from $140,000 to $540,000 per hour.

The costs do not stop there either. Conventional solutions are costly to install and maintain, and they usually demand people or services to monitor them, furthering the expense.

Bad bots can be detrimental to your conversion rates

Bots can slow down your sites, which will have a negative impact on your conversion rates. It is predicted that conversion rates drop by seven percent for every one-second delay.

Moreover, every one in 10 users who have a negative experience on your website will not return, whether this means your site was frustratingly slow or they were not able to access it altogether. Therefore, if you deliver poor user experience due to bad bot traffic, it’s likely you are going to lose around 10 percent of your customers, which impacts your long-term success and future profits.

A lot of security firms will advise that you use CAPTCHAs to prevent bots. We don’t recommend this. Not only are bots becoming more and more successful in defeating CAPTCHAs but they make the humans do the work, which can be incredibly annoying. Have you ever tried to purchase concert tickets only to find that you were too slow because of the annoying CAPTCHA challenges? Infuriating, right? This is not how you want your customers to feel about your brand. CAPTCHAs cause end-user friction, which will further negatively impact your conversions.

Finding a way to fight back against bad bots

While there are bot management solutions available, a lot of them are proving to be ineffective. This is because the fundamental architecture of these legacy anti-bot solutions still give bad bots a way into the infrastructure, which means they are not effective at stopping malicious automation.

The good news is that Kasada is different. We provide you with a method of stopping bad bot traffic before it gets through the front door. With our approach, you can eliminate the stress and expenses associated with traditional solutions and the resources required to maintain them. We will also help you to lower unnecessary operational and IT overhead by rightsizing traffic to authentic human user traffic only.

We don’t use outdated techniques like CAPTCHAs either. Instead, we will increase conversion rates through a frictionless and invisible experience for customers. Through eliminating bot-driven downtime and latency, we can help you to protect your online revenue and reputation.

In this way, we mitigate bots in a manner that extends beyond security. Not only do we offer your business protection but we give you the ability to improve competitiveness, operating margins, and revenue.

Test your website today to see if you’re protected from bad bots

The best thing to do today is test your website to see if it can detect bad bots. Take our FREE bad bot test and we will provide you with the full results and analysis so you can get a better understanding of the current state of your own defenses against bad bots.