While cybersecurity threats like ransomware and phishing have been making headlines, bad bot attacks are equally dangerous.
Preventing bot attacks can save businesses thousands in lost revenue and staff time compared to downtime costs. It can also help businesses remain in compliance with data protection frameworks.
Malicious bots can have a variety of malicious intents, such as data scraping, credential stuffing, and launching DDoS attacks. Some are single-task bots that do a specific job like form filling or site crawling, while others create multiple accounts to spam content across the web, generating click fraud and destroying brand reputations. More sophisticated bots are part of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack and stall a website by flooding it with traffic. Others test stolen credit card numbers and passwords to find those that work, leading to account hacking or lost balances in customers’ gift cards.
Detecting bot traffic is challenging as most bad bots are programmed to behave and look like human users, making them hard to detect. However, specific indicators indicate that a site is experiencing high volumes of bot activity. These include a high bounce rate, unexpected new visitors or sessions increase, and abnormal server performance. Another indicator is a spike in traffic from regions your business doesn’t do business in.
Investing in a specialist bot management solution can help businesses quickly identify and block malicious bots. A robust solution uses fingerprinting and behaviour modelling to analyze each web request and identify anomalies. This enables the detection of malicious behaviours by observing keystroke rhythm, cursor movement, and course and analyzing request patterns such as page views and requests for logins or carts.
Bots can create thousands of requests and overload website servers, making the site unavailable to legitimate users. Bot detection and mitigation software prevent this by analyzing the device, browser, and other information of web traffic to create a ‘fingerprint’ of normal user behaviour. When a bot spoofs the fingerprint, the corresponding requests are blocked to keep malicious traffic at bay. This also ensures that website analytics don’t get wrong data from on-site visitors, such as the number of pages viewed, time spent on a page by users, and the geographic location of visitor origins.
While there are good bots, such as those used by search engines or to facilitate customer service on support portals, many bots are malignant. These can wreak havoc on businesses and eat up valuable IT resources.
Preventing bots can free up IT and other resources to spend on more significant business priorities and reduce downtime, costing a company millions of dollars in lost revenue. It can also help companies remain in compliance with regulatory frameworks, such as CCPA or GDPR, and make them less likely to suffer significant fines for data breaches and other security incidents. Irregular spikes in website traffic, originating from an unknown IP or geo-location, are often a sign of bot activity.
In addition to preventing attacks in the first place, you need to monitor your website to detect any signs of suspicious activity. The best way to do this is with a bot mitigation solution which can automatically scan your site for any vulnerabilities and prevent hackers from exploiting those weaknesses with an automated response. This saves you the cost and hassle of hiring a security team to investigate your site manually and ensures that any potential problems are addressed before they become severe attacks.
Malicious bots are becoming increasingly sophisticated; some even imitate human behaviour to avoid detection. They also adapt to new security measures, making it difficult for businesses to know whether they are under attack until it is too late. In the worst cases, malicious bots can steal sensitive information from customers, cause damage to a company’s infrastructure, and even lead to downtime.
A good bot mitigation solution should be able to identify a bot from non-bot traffic, assess its behaviour, and block it before doing any damage. It should also limit how often the same user can act, known as rate limiting, to make it harder for bots to do their damage quickly. It would be best to look for a non-intrusive bot prevention solution that doesn’t require DNS rerouting or significant changes to your web application.
Malicious bots serve various purposes, along with hacking, credential stuffing, data scraping, and launching DDoS attacks, some bots can mimic traffic to manipulate website analytics or generate click fraud. Identifying bots can be difficult. Some of the most apparent indicators include unexplained spikes in bounce rates, unusually low retention times, or increased requests from single IP addresses.
Investing in detection and mitigation tools will allow businesses to protect their websites and networks proactively. The protection should be a comprehensive solution that protects all access points, including exposed APIs, mobile apps, and web applications. It should also be scalable to adjust the solution to match business needs and avoid blocking essential services for human visitors.
In addition to protecting against the most severe bot attacks, a comprehensive solution will prevent bad bots from taxing site performance, increasing IT costs, and hurting user experience (UX). Bot detection solutions should have a static approach that passively identifies request information correlated with bad bot activity, determines the bot’s fingerprint, and blocks it. This ensures that the best of the good bots, such as search engine crawlers and headless browsers, are allowed through while preventing the bad ones from getting in the way of customer acquisition and sales growth.