Bots are computer programs or software applications designed to automatically execute a series of operations. There are useful bots (called good bots) that perform a range of tasks for users, such as:
Crawling websites to index them for search engines and social media channels
Information gathering services that can scour the Web to provide news, data, sports scores, weather reports, job openings and virtually any information that’s online
Credit scoring, identity verification, database queries, CRM & ERP functions and other business needs
On the other hand, bad bots cause harm to websites and online businesses, carrying out operations such as:
Illegally scraping content from websites to publish elsewhere
Third-party scrapers that gather information and content for competitors so that they can fine tune their business strategies
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that slow down or take out websites and severely impact user experience
Account Takeover attacks that use breached log-in credentials to steal personal information and stored forms of value such as reward points, wallet balances, prepaid vouchers and so on
Botnets are large networks of bots that are orchestrated by a command and control center that instructs them on specific malicious actions, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, API abuse, phishing scams, spam emails, ransomware, click fraud and more. A computer infected with malware or viruses can spread the bot infection to other computers to create massive botnets. In most cases, the users of these computers are not aware that their device is a part of a botnet and carrying out malicious activities.
In most cases, computers become infected and turn into botnets because of weak end-point security. This can be taken care of by having antivirus and malware programs and definitions updated and patched. Computer users should also be educated on the perils of opening unknown attachments and clicking on suspicious executables.
Many enterprises try to devise in-house solutions to detect and block bots, but it’s usually a futile endeavor, not to mention a poor use of time and resources. This is because bot developers are able to evolve their bots and botnets to evade security measures commonly used to block them, including in-house solutions and WAFs. Advanced bots today leverage hijacked residential IP addresses and large datacenters to carry out ‘low and slow’ attacks using large numbers of IP addresses (but just a few hits from each one) to evade detection from systems such as WAFs that rely on IP address blacklists and access control mechanisms. This is why dedicated bot management solutions are considered the best option for enterprises that encounter large volumes of bot traffic.
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