Over the last few years, bots have entered the mainstream. In case you’re still new to the world of bots, here’s a brief primer: Very simply, bots—short for “robots”—are automated software programs designed to carry out specific tasks. At a high level, bots tackle repetitive tasks that folks would find too boring or that are too time-consuming to be done manually.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are both good bots and bad bots.
If you log on to Amazon with a customer service issue you want to resolve through live chat, for example, a “good” chatbot will greet you and ask you a few questions before you’re routed to a live agent. In an ideal world, the chatbot would solve your problem right then and there. If not, the chatbot provides more context to the agent, accelerating resolution times on Amazon’s end.
However, when most people talk about bots, they’re talking about bad bots. In recent years, bad bots have evolved into a bigger and bigger problem as they become more technically complex and powerful. Bad bots can serve malware to users, take over networks, steal data, plagiarize content, and steal marketing dollars from your budget—all things you want to avoid.
The good news is that you’re not powerless against bots. Keep reading to learn about the negative impacts bots can have on your business, the kinds of bots you should be worried about, and what you can do to block malicious bots from targeting your company.
Why should you be worried about bad bots?
When bad bots attack your business, you suffer in a myriad of ways—it’s that simple. Here are some examples of the negative impact bots can have on your company:
Tarnishing your brandby stealing sensitive information your customers have entrusted you with
Spamming you with questionable linksthat add no value to your customers (e.g., by putting backlinks to unrelated sites in comments or sending your readers to spammers’ websites)
Getting you blacklistedby increasing your site’s load time significantly and spamming your visitors with unwanted download links, crushing your traffic in the process
Damaging your search engine optimization (SEO) rankingsby watering down the quality of your website, making it harder for customers and other individuals from finding your content
Crashing your website via a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attackmaking your site inaccessible until the attack is over
Slowing down your site speedand hurting the user experience in the process
Clicking on your adsto commit click fraud and drain your advertising budget
Filling out forms with bogus information
causing you to end up with low-quality leads and potentially exposing you to Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations
- Affecting your revenue with relentless, computer-driven attacks carried out by a program that doesn’t eat or sleep
- Skewing your advertising costs by messing with your analytics and causing publishers to charge more money.
- Disrupting your A/B testing by automatically clicking on everything, makes it impossible to know which ads are doing well
Keep in mind that this list is by no means complete; bots can damage your brand in even more ways. Now that you have a better idea of some of the ways bad bots can hurt your business, let’s zero in on some of the more common bots you need to be aware of.
Which bad bots should you be concerned about?
There are several different types of bad bots designed to wreak havoc. As technology continues to evolve, more and more sophisticated bots come online periodically. With that in mind, here are some of the more common bots you need to be aware of right now:
- Click bots intentionally visit websites and click on ads to warp ad campaign data and burn through an advertiser’s budget. These bots are designed to both make bad actors money or to cripple a competitor’s ad budget.
- Form bots fill out lead generation forms with fake information to either make money off of fake leads or gain access to gated content and make it freely available online, which can hurt companies with business models that rely on selling premium content.
- Impression bots continually load and reload website pages to create more ad impressions and generate more money for fraudsters
- Spam bots plague comment sections, lead forms, and email inboxes with unsolicited messages, advertising links, and other forms of spam.
- Botnets are “zombie bots” that turn computers into networks of bots that are typically used to conduct DDoS attacks on unsuspecting websites.
- Chatbots can be both good and bad. The Amazon chatbot referenced above is a good bot. Bad chatbots, on the other hand, emulate human interactions by engaging in conversation. These bots attempt to acquire personal information and often reside on service websites—like dating sites, messaging apps, and chat rooms.
Once again, the above list isn’t complete, either; there are several other kinds of bad bots, all of which can inflict damage upon your business.
Luckily, you’re not completely out of luck when it comes to protecting your business against these bots. In fact, there are several different tactics you can employ to protect your digital properties against bots, which we’ll examine in the next section.
What 4 methods can you use to block malicious bots?
If you don’t do anything to protect yourself against bots, it may only be a matter of time before they start causing serious pain to your business. With that in mind, here are four ways you can prevent bad bots from impacting your operations.
Honeypots are designed to capture bots in a way that doesn’t impact the user experience. Very simply, honeypots add a hidden field to forms that humans can’t see. The bot, however, does see the hidden field and fills it out, immediately alerting the website manager that the user is a bot.
CAPTCHA, or “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart,” is a mechanism that causes users to fill out forms, click on pictures, or answer questions to prove their identities. While CAPTCHAs are designed to protect websites from bots, they don’t protect sites against other kinds of ad fraud, and they also hurt the user experience.
3. Verified sign in
By requiring website visitors to sign in to your site with a Google or Facebook account, you can prevent bots from impacting your site. However, not everyone has Google and Facebook accounts. Even those who do might not want to connect their credentials to your site. In the best-case scenario, you have to assume that at least some real visitors are going to look for a substitute option.
4. Blocking bad traffic
You can also prevent malicious bots from hurting your business by blocking IP addresses of known bot addresses and in countries and locations, you don’t serve. However, bots often have multiple IP addresses. While this method may help protect your website, it’s not 100 percent effective.
Protect your business from bad bots—and more—with Anura.
Companies across all industries need to do everything they can to protect their web presence from malicious bots and other bad actors. To do that, you need a proven solution that can detect fraudulent behavior in real-time—and one that does more than just protect against bad bots.
To learn more about how Anura can help your business block malicious bots from targeting your company and taking a chunk out of your bottom line, check out our various resources.
Better yet, start your free trial today to see how Anura can help you validate users in real-time and pinpoint sources of fraudulent traffic.