According to The Atlantic, more than 50% of the internet or web traffic comes from bots today. While there is traffic that emanates from good bots, there remains a sizable amount from malicious bots. There has been an increase in the risks associated with cybercrimes due to the daily emergence of new threats and attack vectors. Malicious bots have been a core enabler of cybersecurity threats like DDoS, Credential Stuffing, brute force attacks, fraud, and malware injection, to name a few. Before delving into the ways to stop bot attacks, let us start by discussing bot and bot attacks concepts.
What is a bot?
A bot or a website/internet bot is computer software programmed to execute automated scripts or tasks over the internet. In most cases, the tasks are repeatable. A bot is advantageous because it can repeatedly perform these tasks at a faster rate than any human. For example, to save all image files on a webpage, a human being must right-click and click Save. It may take quite some time to finish. On the other hand, a bot can complete in a matter of seconds. There are various types of bots, both malicious and legitimate.
These are bots whose actions are beneficial to your website. They crawl your website for SEO to obtain market intelligence, aggregate information, analytics, and other functions. They include;
Backlink checker bots
They are used for checking the inbound URLs that a website gets. This helps the SEO specialists and marketers optimize their site and derive crucial insights.
These are used to check for the system health of the website’s uptime. This is accomplished by checking and reporting the downtime duration, status, and load time of a webpage.
They collate information from various websites and keep the users abreast with news and events.
Search engine crawlers
They are spiders that index and crawl your web pages to make them available on search engines. You can specify their rules and control their crawl rates in the robots.txt file.
Other good bots include social network bots, partner bots, and chatbots.
Bots can also be programmed to steal content like product information and prices. By doing so, they can undermine the target website’s pricing strategies. Competitors mostly use them to give them an edge over their rivals.
These bots primarily target ticketing websites. They purchase many tickets when the booking opens and later sell them to reseller websites at a high profit. This can make the original website lose customers because they can not afford to buy the tickets.
Bot attack refers to any instance in which a cybercriminal uses malicious bots to break into a network, or a website, without the consent of the network or website owner. They may steal data, deface websites or install passive programs that will be sending logged keys back to the cybercriminal. To stop bot attacks, you need to understand how they attack your website.
Below are several types of bot attacks
Distributed Denial of services DDoS
The bots can flood your web servers with zombie traffic shutting down the process due to overloading. It crashes the website and forces its services to be taken offline. DDoS can occur in three forms; Application layer attacks, SYN flooding, or UDP flooding.
Bots can use ill-intentioned social engineering practices that imitate the organization’s users or a trusted company’s branding. They seek to persuade unsuspecting users to download infected attachments or click on malicious links. They recursively spread throughout the network like worms.
Brute force attacks
These are attacks that aim to exploit users’ credentials and passwords through dictionary attacks and credential stuffing. Because they are fast, bots can try several thousand password variations, eventually cracking some not adequately protected user accounts.
What are various ways to stop bot attacks?
There are various ways in which you can effectively stop bot attacks on your internet infrastructure. Some help in halting the said attacks, while others will help in managing the good bots. They include;
Blocking known bot signatures
Using various bot detection methods, you can make a list of known bot signatures; this effectively blocks known bots from accessing your website. A good example is IP address blacklisting. For this purpose, you can use filtering tools like Web Application Firewalls (WAF). In addition, you can also enlist the use of block bots to deal with advanced signatures like conflicting agent claims and signs of headless browsers.
Configuring Robots.txt file
Robots.txt file contains the bots’ instructions and rules for crawling your website. Making proper configurations to this file makes good bots follow the instructions while malicious bots become outliers. You can then collect information on the malicious bot and blacklist them. Rather than helping stop bot attacks, this method is more about managing good bots.
CAPTCHA or Block outdated user agents
Although most modern browsers force automatic updates on users, the default configuration for various tools online still has largely outdated strings of user agents. Though blocking outdated user agents may not stop sophisticated bot attacks, it helps discourage some.
Protecting and securing access points
Besides securing your website, you should ensure that various access points like the APIs and mobile apps are protected. Ensure that the blocking information is shared among different systems. This way, you effectively shut the bots’ access points and backdoors.
Carefully evaluate traffic sources and failed login attempts
To effectively stop bot attacks, traffic evaluation is crucial. You should carefully evaluate the sources of your network traffic and blacklist questionable sources. High bounce and lower conversion rates are signs of bot traffic. If there is a spike in your website’s traffic, investigate their sources too. While a traffic spike is good for business, unexplained traffic is a sign of malicious activity.
You should also monitor the failed login attempts. You can do this by defining the baseline of your failed login attempts. Malicious bots attempt to validate stolen credentials through credential stuffing, which can cause increased traffic and the use of resources.
Investing in proper bot detection and mitigation software solution
This is the most important and effective method to stop bot attacks and protect your website. Although it was hard to get a proper bot mitigation solution in the past, it is easy to find a highly specialized one today. Depending on your infrastructure, you should consider the following when considering a bot protection solution.
The quality of detection: the primary job of a bot protection solution is to stop bot attacks on your website. You should therefore inquire about its efficiency and conduct a few tests before purchasing one.
Ease of use: how easy it is to use a bot protection solution. A good solution should be easily adaptable so that you can quickly understand the pattern of the traffic bots.
Other issues to consider are the time required to offer protection and the intrusiveness of the solution.
Cybersecurity threats emanating from bot activity have been increasing with the increase in the amount of traffic. Therefore, you should invest in a mechanism to stop bot attacks that is consistent and scalable with your website needs. The protection solution should allow legitimate bots to continue operating as they boost the website’s performance and ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).