It’s no secret that various cyber-attacks performed by cybercriminals are on the rise, and most of them are made possible with the help of malicious bots from spam attacks, fraud clicks, account takeover (ATO) attacks, to DDoS attacks and malware injection, among other attack vectors.
These bot attacks can be extremely destructive not only for your site’s performance but also might hurt your finances and reputation, so if you don’t properly stop and prevent these bot attacks on your website, you are exposing your business to considerable risks.
In this guide, we will discuss how we can stop and prevent bot attacks from affecting your website, but just so we are on the same page, let’s start at the very beginning: what are bots, and what are bot attacks?
What Are Bot Attacks?
Bots, or to be exact, internet bots, are computer programs (software) that are programmed to execute automated tasks over the internet. These tasks, in most cases, are relatively simple but repeatable. An important benefit of these bots is that they can execute these repetitive tasks at a much faster rate than any human.
For example, a bot may be programmed to save all image files on a webpage. In such cases, a human user would need to right-click on each image on the web page and click “save as…”, which would take quite some time. A bot, on the other hand, can do this in just a matter of seconds.
Impact of Bad Bots On Your Website and Server
When malicious bots are allowed to access our site, they can overload your server, slowing or denying your service for legitimate users while also causing various potential damages such as:
- Content scraping: bots can steal your content and publish it elsewhere, hurting your site’s SEO performance. Alternatively, they can also scrape hidden/unpublished content and leak them to your competitors or to the public, disrupting your site’s competitive advantage.
- Spam: posting spam links on your comment section, skewing your metrics, and allowing a bad customer experience by posting fraudulent content/links
- Brute force: ‘guessing’ your password/username by trying all the possible combinations
- Credential stuffing: using stolen credentials on your website in an attempt to find users who use the same credentials on different accounts, gaining access to the account
- Inventory hoarding: ‘buying’ and locking your inventory, blocking legitimate buyers from a purchase. Especially detrimental on eCommerce websites.
However, it’s important to remember that although bots now have a notorious reputation due to their associations with bot attacks—as discussed above—, there are actually good bots owned by reputable companies that are beneficial for both our website and our users. Google’s crawler bot, for example, will index your website so it can be ranked on Google’s SERP.
This is why in preventing bot attacks, simply blocking all bot activities on our website isn’t actually the ideal move, which we will discuss below.
Two Challenges To Bot Management
As discussed, when managing bots in an attempt of preventing bot attacks, we can’t simply block all bot traffic due to two reasons:
- There are good bots: we wouldn’t want to accidentally block good bots that are beneficial to our site and business in general. For example, we wouldn’t want to block crawler bots of Google and Bing from indexing our site.
- Bots are disguising themselves as real traffic: malicious bots owned by cybercriminals are now designed to disguise themselves as real human traffic, using AI technologies to perform human-like behaviors like non-linear mouse movement while rotating between hundreds if not thousands of IP addresses per minute. So, we wouldn’t want to accidentally block legitimate human users which will hurt our credibility and reputation.
Implementing Advanced Bot Management Solution
While considering the two challenges discussed above, the best approach to protecting your website and server from bot attacks is to install an advanced anti-bot mitigation service that can effectively detect bad bot activities while also being capable of:
- Differentiating between bots and real human traffic accurately
- Know the difference between good bots and bad bots
- Implementing the right mitigation approach (blocking, throttling, etc.) depending on the bot’s activities
There are actually two different detection approaches we can perform to detect bots:
- Static/fingerprinting detection: this approach looks for fingerprints of known malicious bots like blacklisted IP addresses, signs of a headless browser, inconsistent OS/browser types, etc.
- Dynamic/behavioral detection: this approach analyzes the traffic’s behavior and compares it to a baseline.
Due to the sophistication of today’s bots, a bot management solution that is capable of behavioral or dynamic detection is recommended. DataDome is an advanced bot detection and prevention software that uses AI and machine learning technologies to detect and manage bot traffic in real-time. Running on autopilot, DataDome will only notify you when there’s any malicious bot activity but you don’t have to do anything to protect your system.
Nowadays, traffic from bots contribute to nearly half of all internet traffic, and half of those belong to bad bots programmed to do malicious tasks. Thus, it’s very important for all businesses with an online presence to start considering a proper practice to manage the bot activities accessing their sites.
As we have discussed, however, fully blocking the bot traffic isn’t always the best option due to the presence of good bots and bots disguising themselves as legitimate human users. This is where a proper bot management practice assisted with the right bot management solution is very important.