Bots are computer programs created to carry out particular activities automatically. They function without assistance from humans and run independently. Bots can take the place of humans by imitating human behavior and are typically set up to handle repeated jobs, which they can finish considerably more quickly than humans.
But there are typically two types of bots: good and bad. Search engines use good bots, commonly referred to as web crawlers or spiders, to index and classify web pages. They primarily serve to raise the standard, usefulness, and accuracy of search results. Businesses can use web crawlers to keep an eye on competitors and evaluate the effectiveness of their websites.
Additionally, good bots can offer personalized user experience and tailored information like product recommendations. Good bots include, for example, SEO bots, marketing bots, data analysis bots, etc.
On the other hand, bad bots can be used to launch cyber-attacks, harvest data, and even engage in fraud. Bots are becoming more prevalent and account for about half of all web traffic. Unfortunately, bad bots have a higher activity rate than good ones and are constantly getting smarter.
Hackers can use these bad bots to scrape data from websites and steal sensitive materials, costing organizations time, resources, and money. Bad bots frequently launch several types of targeted attacks. These include, among others, Distributed Denial of Service [DDoS] attacks, Account Takeover [ATO] attacks, spam, web scraping, etc.
Some of the risks associated with bad bots include:
- Identity theft
- Malware infections
- Brand damage
- Data breaches
- Information theft
- Financial loss
Now that you know what bad bots are and the potential harm they can cause, how can you stop them and protect your website against these bots? Here are the most effective bad bot protection strategies you can implement.
How To Stop Bad Bots
1. Invest In A Bot Mitigation Solution
Getting the right bot detection and mitigation solution to safeguard your website is crucial in detecting and preventing bot attacks. With in-house solutions and WAF (web application firewall) rules, it could still mitigate bot attacks in a “good enough” manner a few years ago. But today, mitigating bad bots demands a lot of specialist knowledge.
So, what qualities should a decent bot protection solution have? The answer may depend on the structure of your website, your industry, and how risky your profile is, but the following are some things to focus on.
Detection quality: The primary function of a bot protection tool is to stop bot attacks on your website. Ask potential providers for evidence of their bot detection effectiveness, and if you can, test many potential solutions concurrently on your actual traffic.
Time to protection: If you’re already being attacked, stopping the bot attack as soon as possible should be your primary priority. Instead of choosing a solution that necessitates proof of concept and a drawn-out negotiating process before receiving assistance, choose one you can implement now.
Simple-to-use dashboard: Compare the dashboard options of the bot mitigation services you are thinking about. How easy (or challenging) is it to interpret your bot traffic patterns? Or recognize bot traffic? How simple (or challenging) is adding partner bots to an allow list, turning on and off protection? These are the things you need to ask yourself.
Introduce CAPTCHA challenges
Websites can put security measures in place that make users complete tasks that can only be done by humans to prevent automated bot attacks. Before accessing private information on a website, these tasks usually require completing puzzles or responding to inquiries.
2. Monitor Your Traffic
This makes it easier to spot odd traffic patterns that might be caused by bot activity. Here are the metrics you need to monitor:
- Traffic spike
If you see any sudden increases in traffic for a brief period (usually less than a week), it may be an indicator of bot activity. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as when a new product is launched on your website, meaning visitor increases are expected.
- Untrustworthy sources
Bot traffic typically originates from new user agents and sessions with direct traffic (i.e., not through Google search or individuals hitting your paid advertising). Requests coming from the same IP address repeatedly are a big red flag.
- Bounce rate
A significant increase in bounce rate indicates that much of your site’s traffic comes from bots only interested in repeatedly performing the same actions.
3. Block Data Center IPs
More skilled hackers have switched to more complex networks and servers, but many less skilled crooks continue to use hosting and proxy servers frequently used in previous attacks. Fortunately, you can quickly stop these attacks by acquiring a list of well-known data center IPs and preventing requests from those IPs.
Though less effective and more likely to block actual users, this temporary solution is worth attempting. Remember that this is not a replacement for an all-encompassing bot management solution.
4. Protect All Bad Bots’ Access Points
Any open door, including any unprotected API endpoints, will be tried by bad bots to get access to your website or app. It can be much more challenging for bad bots to access your server if all your access points are protected with authentication and authorization.
The need to protect your website or app from bad bot traffic has never been bigger. These malicious bots can constitute a serious threat to your website’s performance and security, which could have an adverse effect on traffic coming from real users. That’s why you must implement at least some of the bot protection strategies mentioned above and look for a long-term, reliable bot mitigation solution.
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