The developments in technology have helped us move forward, changing our daily lives and how we work. However, by rapidly adopting the technology, we have been left exposed to less somber means. We have been subject to various bot tests implemented by some websites.
It might be by solving a math problem, selecting picture tiles with a particular object, or entering some text into a text box. The site uses these mechanisms to block the bot traffic and reduce harm to the website. Malicious actors use bot traffic to scam, defraud, or other malicious actions.
Bots, the good and the bad
There are two kinds of bots, legitimate bots like Googlebot and malicious ones like scrappers and Spambots. Legitimate bots are beneficial to online infrastructure. You can use the automated scripts to engage customers (chatbots) and interact with the search engine to improve the visibility of your content. Malicious bots are a danger to your online infrastructure. From account takeovers, DOS, and scrapping to defrauding your customers, malicious bots are full of actions that can harm your business.
How can you differentiate them?
Bot actions nowadays mimic human behaviors because of the application of Machine Learning capabilities. Therefore, detecting them becomes problematic. Behavioral analysis cannot tell the difference between the two but can give an insight into what kind of bot you are dealing with. However, a bot prevention and detection solution like DataDome effectively detects and blocks bots with minimal false positives.
Blocking Versus Mitigation of bot activities
Bot blocking isn’t always the best approach for bot management. This is because blocking solves bot management. The reasons below explain why you might use other means of bot management.
Sometimes you can detect a bot and allow it to pass, albeit to areas that it can do less harm. It helps you explore the bot’s activities to understand the areas of your website, API, or mobile application. This can help you take up measures to protect those areas. This kind of situation is expected during the testing phase.
Avoiding false positives
The other reason to use a bot mitigation solution is to don’t target the legit ones. The number of false positives can increase where both the malicious and the legit bots have similar signatures or behaviors.
In other instances or other attack vectors, doing a bot block is inherently the best approach. For instance, when dealing with a DDoS attack, stopping the source of the attack is the best option to protect your site from going offline. It is a critical situation where you should take every measure to protect the online infrastructure.
It’s right to say that whether to block bots is a case-by-case situation. Some cases like the DDoS above require total blocking and elimination, while in other cases, allow them to pass.
Need for bot blocking
Estimates put bots at half of the internet today. With this increase, the risks associated with bot activities redouble. Each year, companies spend millions protecting their sites’ reputation and their data and customers from scalping, scrapping, and account takeovers. Although measures have been instituted to curb such activities, unfortunately, the bots keep getting intelligent and becoming an incredibly sophisticated enemy. Below are some threats posed by a bot.
Theft of sensitive data
Content and web scrapping bots are notorious for stealing data, including sensitive ones. They crawl the website looking for data like the proprietary one that they can sell at a profit. Other forms of data stolen include user login credentials, business, and pricing strategies. It gives a competitor an edge over you.
Affecting the speed of your site
Bot activities strain the performance of your server, which slows your site. This might drive your visitors away, affecting the SEO performance of your site.
Giving your competitors an edge over you
Malicious boys can steal proprietary data and push it into production. By not investing in research, they can sell your finished product at a lower cost than you. By having insider insights into your business, the bot owner/ rival business can craft measures that aim at countering each of your business moves. Bot blocking can help avert this malpractice.
Blocking Bots Mechanisms
A bot can also affect a business by spamming it with fraudulent links and skewing the analytics. So how do you block these bots?
Bot blocking mechanisms
While bot blocking is not a preferred mechanism, there are ways that you can use to inhibit and block them from affecting their online infrastructure.
Captcha tells between computers and humans. It is the first layer of defense and can be used on top of other mechanisms. This technique is effective at weeding out simple bots that cannot supply or enter the correct answer. It allows users to continue after completing the test. The limitation to this method is its effect on a user’s experience, particularly when a user cannot continue the browsing and is stuck in an endless loop.
Does your online infrastructure offer services globally? If not, then you might want to geofence it. It limits the users outside your area of operation from interacting with it. These users include the bots. Therefore, the number of bot incidences reduces to a manageable level. While it is not an all-in mechanism for bot blocking, this method can be adopted in localized infrastructures to protect them from malicious actors.
Alternatively, you can allow the bot to access the site but limit its allocated bandwidth. This makes its operation less efficient, forcing the operator to give up because of the low speed.
Bot blocking using a bot management solution
Because malicious bots are sophisticated today, investing in a bot management solution is the best course of action. A bot management solution can perform static fingerprinting and behavioral analysis to block and stop the bots effectively. A solution like DataDome uses AI and machine learning technologies for real-time detection and mitigation bot activities.
A good bot management solution can be effective in bot blocking and detection. It can also help you differentiate a real user from a malicious bot while mitigating the malicious user on autopilot. Bot management solutions like DataDome enlist the help of machine learning to understand bot behaviors and eradicate them with minimal false positives. By identifying the source of the bot, you can block it entirely by blacklisting its IP address.