Definition: What are Bots?

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To effectively manage bots, it’s important to understand what bots are. A bot is simply a computer program designed to operate automatically in a network. Bots can do tasks better and faster than humans. They do specific actions which may range from simple to complex.

For instance, Google’s bots are constantly crawling website pages and indexing content in site pages to make such content available for search. If humans handled such tasks, it would take a very long time. Google’s bots crawl the web in seconds.

Good vs. Bad Bots

According to 2020 statistics, bad bot traffic represents 25% of all internet traffic. Only 60% of internet traffic was human traffic in 2020. The rest (15%) was good bot traffic.

Bad bots can be defined as bots that engage in harmful activities online such as web scraping, digital ad fraud, transaction fraud, spam, data mining, brute-force attacks, and personal/financial data harvesting.

Good bots are bots that engage in legitimate and productive tasks. Google search bots are a great example of good bots whose primary purpose is making it easier for internet users to find information online. Other examples of good bots include customer service chatbots and performance monitoring bots. Good bots don’t misuse online products/services, access user accounts, or steal private data.

How to Manage Bots

Bot management is about blocking bad bots from engaging in undesirable or malicious activities on your website while allowing good bots access to web properties. The process involves detecting bot activity and assessing it for desirability or undesirability. To manage bots effectively, it is also important to identify sources of bad bots or undesirable activities.

Bot Managers

Bot management is made possible by bot managers, which are simply software products that manage bots. The software is able to allow as well as block good and bad bots. Instead of blocking all bot traffic, good bot managers can differentiate between good and bad bots and take the appropriate action.

As mentioned above, we need good bots to perform important tasks online. If good bots such as Google bots are blocked, they can significantly reduce the amount of human traffic flowing to a website.

Bot managers are able to accomplish their tasks effectively by first identifying bot and human traffic. The best bot managers can also identify the reputation of a bot as well as its origin (IP address) and behavior. They can also take potentially bad bots through different tests i.e., captcha or JavaScript injection tests, to establish whether to grant or deny certain bots access to certain or all resources.

How Do Bot Managers Work?

Bot managers use captcha or JavaScript challenges to identify bots. Bot managers also use other tactics such as behavioral analysis. This tactic involves comparing current behavior with standard user behavior. The best bot managers have a large database of quality behavioral data they can check against.

If a bot manager finds a bot to be bad, the bot is blocked from accessing the web page/resource in question or redirected to another web page or resource. Good bots are added to special lists known as allow lists.

Besides using behavioral analysis, captcha, or JavaScript challenges, bot managers also set up honeypot “traps”. A honeypot can be defined as a fake trap for bad actors. Honeypots can be web pages on a website that forbid bots using robots.txt files. Good bots can read the files and avoid those web pages; however, bad bots will attempt to crawl such pages exposing themselves. Tracking IPs of bots that access honeypots make it easy to identify and block bad bots.

Importance of Bot Managers

Being able to manage bots is important for preventing bot attacks. Bot managers stop many attacks, the most notable being;

DDoS attacks

Bot managers stop DDoS attacks known to utilize compromised devices and networks of bots to overwhelm servers, processing resources, and bandwidth with spam requests. DDoS attacks render websites, apps, and services unavailable.

Credential stuffing

Bot managers also stop attacks on credentials. Cybercriminals use bad bots to try and gain access to stolen or leaked credentials. Credential stuffing attacks give rogue elements access to user accounts and systems. Users who use similar credentials for many accounts are most susceptible to credential stuffing.

Card stuffing

Cybercriminals use bots to gain access to gift card creation accounts. After gaining access, they create counterfeit cards and use them to make purchases. Alternatively, bots are also used to steal credit card information, and purchases are made using those cards.

Web scraping

A bot manager can also stop a web scraping attack. The attacks utilize bots for scanning and collecting proprietary resources from a site or storage devices. The resources include product information, pricing data, hidden files, etc. Ecommerce websites such as online gaming sites and ticketing sites are the most susceptible to web scraping.

Intelligence harvesting

Bots can scan sites, online forums, and social media to collect personal user information. The information is then used to enable phishing attacks i.e., using personal information that mimics authority sites to trick a user to provide confidential information.

Other bot manager benefits

Bots also stop click fraud and ad fraud. They also mitigate unwanted activity such as inventory hoarding, shopping cart stuffing, and automated social media posting.

Wrapping Up

How to manage bots is important since bad bots can cause serious problems if left unchecked. Too much traffic from bad bots can slow down web servers and websites, denying site users the services they need. Malicious bots can also steal personal user data and use it to commit crime, steal financial resources and perform many other types of cybercrimes.

The best way of managing bots is to use a good bot manager tested and proven to defend against attacks originating from bad bots without blocking good bots. The best bot managers can collect billions of requests a day and use this information to identify malicious bots via behavioral analysis and machine learning. In a nutshell, bot managers should block bad while allowing good bots.


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