First and foremost, bot traffic refers to any non-human traffic that a website or application receives. Since the traffic to a website helps decipher the level of user engagement that it receives, bot traffic can be both good and bad depending on the nature of the bot. However, it is important to note that bots can often have malicious objectives that can create a harmful impact and affect the operations of a business. In this article, we will learn in-depth about how to stop bot traffic on websites.
There are a variety of bots that can be deemed useful for automated services like Siri and Alexa as well as search engines and social media apps. However, bad bots with malicious intent can be used to cause breaches, credential stuffing, launching hacks and DDoS attacks, plagiarizing your content to post them on other websites, and more.
Additionally, good bots can also be a task to handle since they put extra load on your server resources in the case that they are not regulated properly. This extra load inevitably leads to increased traffic load and decreases the speed of your website or application, which prevents human users from having a favorable experience.
There are two main objectives to keep in mind while countering bots, which are:
- It is impossible to block all bots since many good bots can prove to be rewarding for your website.
- It is imperative to be on the lookout for genuine users when blocking bots, as blocking bots arbitrarily can lead to the loss of human users.
What exactly are bad bots?
Bots, or internet robots, are automated programs that serve the purpose of performing routine and monotonous tasks on the internet. The factor that differentiates bots from human users is that they can perform at a much higher speed than the latter, hence having the ability to perform their duties without any sort of breaks or disruptions.
While a good bot is generally owned by a reputed firm, serves proper functions like sending automated messages, and does not hide its identity. A bad bot tries to operate under the disguise of a human user and works specifically to cause the aforementioned issues.
Hackers typically use botnets to launch certain types of attacks, like DDoS. A botnet is a bundle of devices that have been especially infected with harmful items like malware and work directly under the authority of the hacker. The hacker has full autonomy over the botnet, thus having the ability to make bots like zombies almost.
The negative impact of bad bots on your online presence
There are a plethora of detrimental attacks that bad bots are capable of launching, which ultimately cause unwanted disruptions to a website. The negative impact caused consists of an array of things, including:
Flooding your website with fraudulent links
Bots that exist with the purpose of spamming are known as spambots. Spambots can flood comment sectors, forms, websites, and parts of your site that allow users to engage with it. These spam attacks often include malicious, virus-laden links and scum content that can hamper the reputation of your business. Moreover, these spam attacks can be punished by search engines like Google, which tend to block such types of content.
Affecting the speed of your site negatively
The activities that bots inflict on your site can drive away genuine users because of extra load on the server. Moreover, bot activities can also potentially affect the SEO performance of your site, thus rendering SEO tools effectively useless.
Eliminating your competitive advantage
In such competitive times when essentially every market is saturated, data has become of crucial importance. This is what attracts hackers and pursues them to comprise your data and potentially sell it to your competitors. This is a commonplace practice in industries where information is of prime importance and has the potential of defining the business and its operations, for example, hospitality and ticketing websites.
Compromising and stealing sensitive data
Bots who steal and plagiarise your content are known as content scraper bots. These bots can use and reuse your data without your knowledge and/or permission. What is even worse is the fact that content scraper bots can steal extremely sensitive data and render your business exposed to trouble with legal authorities, thus having a direct impact on your brand image in the grand scheme of things.
Distort your analytics
It has already been established that bots can have a massive impact on the daily operations of a website which in turn affects the advertising strategies that you might be using. Because of the assumption that there is increased traffic on your website, advertising agencies mistake this for actual traffic and charge you for the same.
As you can see the negative impacts bad bots can have on your website. So, it is important to be able to block these bad bots from your website. Let’s find out how.
Blocking bad bots on your website
Here are an array of solutions that can help you counter the problem of bot attacks:
Block all proxy services
While advanced hackers resort to networks that are strong and difficult to block in nature, many amateur and less sophisticated hackers make use of easily accessible proxy services. Hence, blocking these sources can keep these hackers from attacking your website or application.
Be vigilant about traffic sources
It is crucial to supervise traffic sources on a day-to-day basis. This is because signs like high bounce rates and a considerably low conversion rate from particular websites can indicate the presence of bots.
Supervise failed login attempts
Come up with a strategy to identify your failed login attempt baseline and the resulting anomalies that come with it. If possible, set up alerts to be notified immediately when the same occurs.
Apart from blocking bad bots, another strategy that can come in handy in such situations is that of mitigating bots. There are a number of solutions that can be useful, as blocking all bot activity can sometimes be detrimental to the business. Some of these techniques are:
- Bots can be challenged with a CAPTCHA or other invisible tests that can prove to be difficult to solve for them. This is one of the key indicators of a bot being present on your site.
- Feeding bots fake and irrelevant data can be a great strategy to fool their owners. Moreover, you can also redirect bot traffic to a similar-looking page that has fake data in it.
In the case that there are bots with the sole purpose of infecting your system with malware and/or executing a planned DDoS attack, using attack vectors as bad bot blockers altogether is the most suitable approach. Identify each bot individually to minimise any risk that they might have the potential to pose. Likewise, hiring third-party bot management solutions can be considerably rewarding in such gruesome situations.
Hire external bot management services
Because of how well-planned bot attacks are and the heavy presence of sophisticated bots on the internet, a business is incapable of countering such challenges on its own. In such trying situations, you should hire efficient bot management solutions that can identify and block bad bots on your site and servers. Without having a standard bot management service in place, it can get extremely difficult to load your in-house team with problems that lay outside of their expertise.
All in all, investing in a proper bot management solution can be extremely beneficial in blocking as well as mitigating bots. These services have holistic solutions that can help your business with:
- Being able to distinguish between real, human-users and bad bots under the guise of humans to keep false positives to the minimum.
- Recognizing the source of bad bots and their previous history to prevent attacks as well as false positives in terms of traffic and user engagement.
- Giving good bots access to your site that offers a variety of benefits.
- Making efficient use of Artificial Intelligence technologies to analyse and interpret the behaviour of each bot individually. This helps in managing bot activities on a case-by-case basis.
To conclude, it is tempting to block bots altogether as it is a cost-effective solution. However, in the process of blocking all bots, your site might be at risk of losing good bots that propose no harm. Moreover, experienced hackers might know the moment their bad bots are attacked by your current security infrastructure, thus notifying them to update the bot. Hence, it is extremely vital that external bot management services are hired, since bot traffic is a vast topic that needs professional expertise.