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We live in an age where it’s crucial to have an online presence. It’s how prospects find you, how they learn about what you have to offer, and how they contact you. Failing to keep up with digital trends is synonymous with losing business to competitors.
However, this same reality lends itself to getting inundated with spam from bots—which is hardly the information you want to be storing in your CRM. And spam is just the tip of the iceberg. Some bots can also come infected with spyware and other forms of malware designed to jeopardize your sensitive data and affect your digital marketing campaigns.
This is not to say that all bots are bad. Some have genuinely beneficial uses, such as chatbots that can assist you with customer service. But for purposes of this content, let’s focus on the insidious kind, and what you can do to filter them out of your databases.
The reason why bot detection is challenging is the same reason why a lot of cyberattacks can take a significant amount of time to be discovered—with every passing day, hackers and cyber criminals are getting more sophisticated. Once firewalls and virus detection programs are updated to patch vulnerabilities, they find other creative ways to infiltrate networks.
In addition, hackers can deploy large amounts of bots at the same time, casting a wider net in their attempts. And once a business is infected with a bot, it can affect all aspects of operations, including:
If you’re in the B2C arena, they can also jump ahead of real users and purchase large amounts of items to later sell in the black market via price gouging — which is common in the events industry where scalpers take advantage of hardcore fans and laugh all the way to the bank. They can also hurt your bottom line by loading shopping carts with items that will never be purchased, giving you a false sense of having to restock items.
All of these components can severely affect your company’s reputation; and if it happens often enough, can even affect your SEO rankings on search engine results pages.
Due to the amount of damage that bots can cause to businesses of all sizes, there are several common bot detection methods. The most popular ones include:
CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing to tell Computers and Humans Apart (keep that phrase in your back pocket for you next trivial night). This is the ever popular program that makes you click on images that fit the description included in the instructions (e.g. which pictures depict a motorbus?) While they are easy for humans to answer correctly, it’s designed to be harder for computers to do so.
WAF is an acronym for web application firewall. It identifies certain malwares and blocks them from accessing your data. While it provides a certain level of security, you can still be vulnerable to more recently developed bots.
An IP blocklist is a solution that blocks access from IP addresses that are known to deploy phishing scams, malware, and spam emails. However, while IP address blocking may be useful in some situations, it isn’t always a valid method for stopping bot traffic. One reason is that a bot might be running on a shared network IP address—so blocking the bot means blocking a lot of other legitimate traffic, too. Additionally, large botnets may have thousands of IP addresses to pull from—meaning that if you block one IP address, the fraudster can simply switch to another one with ease.
Many analytics tools—such as Google analytics—offer the option to filter out all known bots. While this is extremely helpfu for stopping general invalid traffic (GIVT) and known bots, it won’t be as useful for stopping sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) from the latest form bots.
This tactic involves limiting how often a website visitor (whether a person or a bot) can perform certain actions within a specific range of time. An example is when you get logged out of an account after several failed login attempts. It’s important to make sure that any rate limiting settings are customized for your website since what indicates fraud on one site might end up blocking real visitors on another.
ReCAPTCHA is Google’s version of CAPTCHA. Since some bots have figured out how to solve simple image clicking “problems” presented by traditional CAPTCHA, ReCAPTCHA ups the ante by instructing the reader to type distorted text, decipher blurry images, select images related to a specific theme, or asking you to click on a box certifying that you’re not a robot.
The three versions of ReCATPCHA so far include:
While this method of filtering out malicious bots can be effective, it can become vexing to website users who keep typing words and selecting themed images that the program continuously considers as wrong answers — ultimately affecting the user experience (UX).
In addition, there are other elements that may affect a user’s ability to solve CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA puzzles:
As if that weren’t enough, if bots fill out forms with someone else’s email address — which you then add to your contacts database for marketing purposes — you could also end up being held liable for violations to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1981 (TCPA). This law was established by the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) to help consumers avoid communications from businesses when they have not voluntarily opted in to receive them.
Granted, you implement CAPTCHA tools precisely to keep their interactions safe, but you always must do so with UX at the forefront of all your efforts. And to add insult to injury, none of these solutions completely filter out every kind of malicious bot.
The most effective protections as of the time of this writing are ad fraud solutions. These are programs that can detect fraudulent attempts and transactions in real time. As a result, it blocks the attempts from continuing.
The added benefit of this type of software is that it blocks all types of fraudulent behavior — regardless of whether it comes from a bot or from a human.
Not only do ad fraud solutions protect your business data by stopping the problem at the source, they can also save you money. For example, if you have pay-per-click ads or offer payouts through affiliate marketing, you would no longer have to worry about paying for activity taken by bots instead of prospects.
You can try our ad fraud solutions risk-free by requesting a free trial. Once you experience firsthand how our software keeps your networks safe and helps you boost your marketing campaigns’ ROI while improving your user experience, you’ll only wish you had started sooner.
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