bots

You took your time developing your website to best appeal to prospective customers and return visitors. You likely spent hours researching SEO and attractive site designs –

you may have even poured over site metrics each quarter hoping to better understand your buyers’ behavior. Yet there is something lurking online of which you might not even be aware – bot traffic!

That’s right; illegitimate requests from non-human bots make up nearly 60 percent of online traffic.

While bot traffic can either be benign or malicious in nature, it can be harmful to businesses regardless. Below you will find just a few of the ways bad bots can hamper normal network operations.

  1. Hinders Advertising Effectiveness

The World Wide Web revolves around clicks. While many websites are supported by advertisements, the truth is that most advertisers would rather pay for the number of clicks they receive rather than the number of eyes on a page.

But when bot traffic makes up the majority of the online ecosystem, it is harder to know if your ads are successful at targeting real people. Adweek reports that 75 percent of publishers and 59 percent of advertisers are unable to differentiate between human and bot traffic, making it nearly impossible to understand the value of a particular ad campaign.

  1. Blocks Legitimate Users

Bots have another use, blocking legitimate traffic from reaching your website. Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS attacks have been in the news lately for knocking some of the world’s most popular brands offline.

DDoS attacks take advantage of infected computers as a way to drum up phony web traffic and overload network servers. While often used as part of a digital protest, DDoS attacks can also crash a server until a ransom is paid. If your organization is struck by a DDoS attack, you could be looking at substantial business losses.

  1. Slows Load Times

Bots are an invasive species. They eat up a lot of data and dramatically slow load times. This can lead to customer frustration, dissatisfaction and ultimately a loss of sales. If you are experiencing thousands of ping requests and slower response times, you might want to examine your web traffic for bot behavior.

  1. Stealing Your Content

Welcome to the next generation of plagiarism. Content scraping is used to steal content from your website and then illegally repost it elsewhere. This can hurt your SEO, lead to fewer visitors, diminish your online ranking, and ultimately lower your sales.

  1. Attacking by Brute Force

Brute force attacks are essential trial and error schemes on an automated level. In other words, bots try to guess your password hundreds of thousands of times until something works; and it might be more successful than you think since many online consumers use weak passwords to defend their personal and financial information. This is bad news for businesses too as companies are fooled into selling goods to an illegitimate user.

Luckily, there have been some efforts to stymie bot traffic online through CAPTCHAs, rate limiting, IP blacklisting and more. CAPTCHAs quiz visitors with a simple word or phrase easily read by humans but difficult for computers to recognize.

Rate limiting on the other hand, governs the amount of traffic sent or received to prevent bots from eating up too much bandwidth or crashing your network. And IP blacklisting detects, quarantines and reports harmful IP addresses so they can’t damage your network.

Where do We Go from Here?

These techniques work to block bogus traffic requests without impacting human users as much as possible, but these aren’t the easiest threats to thwart without dedicated software developed by professionals. Some companies, such as recently funded mobile and web security applications provider Shape Security, are using their own Big Data recipe to better understand user habits in comparison to bot traffic and thus weed out harmful automated traffic before it even materializes. They’ve reportedly already saved their clients over $1.1 billion in fraud losses.

Speaking to PYMNTS.com in late September 2016, Shuman Ghosemajumder, CTO of Shape Security quoted, “We have been focused on protecting the world’s largest companies and government agencies against automated attacks. Automated attacks are used in a number of cybercriminal schemes, and they enable certain types of fraud and breaches that really aren’t possible without that level of automation.”

While the battle against the bots continues to rage, it’s important to understand the risk posed when building your website and promoting your brand.