Bad bots: protecting your organization against a growing threat


Not all bots are bad – there are good bots, like those used by search engines and comparison shopping services. But bad bots are more and more of a problem, whether they’re buying game consoles or concert tickets (I’m still sorry I missed out on AC / DC tickets), or automating attacks on them. corporate networks and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Bots were a costly investment for criminals, but now you can rent bots – and the infrastructure they need – as a full service. Criminals use them in all kinds of ways and classic bot attacks always go after any kind of limited product.

For example, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some online shopping services in India found delivery slots grabbed by robots and offered for resale to desperate people. AMD graphics cards and Sony’s PlayStation 5s have also fallen victim to scalping robots. AMD even recommended that resellers switch to manual processing of first-time purchases to validate that orders actually came from individual customers. And did I mention those AC / DC tickets?

However, the modern bot is much more complex and sophisticated than a simple scraper or an automated online shopping tool. They are used to probe the IT infrastructure of businesses all day and night. They look for weaknesses in credentials to support user accounts. And they’re increasingly targeting APIs, either to support accounts or to bypass traditional cybersecurity setups.

Modern advanced robots

Today’s bot providers have also evolved – they’re very professional and well-organized. They even keep standard office hours and don’t just work in the middle of the night.

Vendors sell bots through online marketplaces and some offer money back guarantees. Some bot sellers have 24/7 help lines if you can’t get your bot to do what you want it to do. They mimic many of the processes of professional software vendors, such as automating the testing of their products.

But getting your hands on a bot is only half the battle. Criminals need an infrastructure to manage them. The latest generation of robots would operate from a compromised data center or server. This made them relatively easy to identify and block via an IP address.

Modern bots are often tied to seemingly legitimate online identities, credentials, and email accounts to bypass basic protections and the latest version of reCAPTCHA. They are linked to compromised residential internet accounts and their traffic comes from thousands of different and seemingly legitimate IP addresses, making defense much more difficult.

All of this means that the bots do a remarkably efficient job of hiding in standard browser traffic. This makes defending against them difficult, especially if you don’t want to irritate customers or users with expensive identity procedures or risk blocking legitimate traffic.

Ways bad bots can hurt businesses

While many organizations have traditionally been prime targets, bad bots are a threat across industries. Much like the usual human cyberattacks, bots can harm your business in a number of ways, including:

• Gift card fraud bots can abuse gift card balance checking facilities to test a large number of possible card numbers. When a match is found, the balance is used to make fraudulent purchases online.

• Credit card fraud bots typically use stolen card details to purchase products and services online. Millions of credit card details are sold online every year, and bots can be easily used to test them on a large scale.

• Credentials attacks or account takeover bots, which are similar to credit card fraud in that they use “credential stuffing” attacks with stolen usernames and passwords . When a successful connection occurs, the account is quickly taken over. According to the attacked website, compromised accounts can be used for financial fraud, spam, extortion, password reuse attacks, and other malicious activities.

• Account creation bots create free accounts to use for spamming or to exploit “new account” promotions.

• Scratch bots are used to steal data from websites, most often related to pricing. This technique is used by cheating organizations to help them downsize their competition or gather intelligence. In the financial industry, many hedge funds use scratch robots to collect information to inform investment decisions.

Spam bots and click bots

Spambots fall into two main categories:

• Bots that collect email addresses to add to spam mailing lists.

• Bots that abuse comment forms on blogs and websites to serve malicious ads or URLs.

Clickbots are used for two main purposes:

• In order to earn money. Scammers can easily add pay-per-click ads on their own websites and use bots to increase click-through rates.

• To target companies that pay for PPC ads. These companies pay the ad network (eg, Google Ads) every time someone clicks on their ads. Clickbots are used to artificially inflate the cost of advertising without generating actual traffic.

• Payment and application abuse bots are generally very sophisticated and used for a variety of malicious purposes. In e-commerce, they are often used to manipulate prices and purchase products or services at discounted rates.

Defend against bots

Defending your infrastructure against bot attacks should be seen as a crucial part of your holistic defenses. While many security suites claim to offer bot protection as standard, you should probe a bit into what you’re getting.

Organizations need protection that combines integrated bot identifiers with cloud-based artificial intelligence and machine learning systems to detect bot attacks. It uses data from a massive honeypot network to spot known bots and also allows you to authorize approved bots by IP or URL. It provides a clear dashboard to track bot activity, origin, and targeted applications.

To protect businesses from bad bots, business leaders need full control and knowledge of the wide range of bots that come to your website every day.

Known bad bots are blocked instantly, while unknown bots are identified and mitigated in five seconds on average. This is essential, as new bots are constantly being developed to bypass inferior checks or understandings.

With the right tools and applications, organizations can improve their security with better website performance and better user experience for real customers, real-time defense against all malicious bot-based activity and have the power to categorize , manage and block the robots individually.

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