10 Oct

Rise of the Bad Bots

An Article by, David Tan, CTO, CHIPS Technology Group

We are likely all familiar with the concept in computers of bots. A bot is essentially an automated program that runs with no user intervention and mimics the behavior of a human user. Many times a bot is used to automate simple processes a person would traditionally do. Like update spreadsheet with daily numbers or archive off old files. Sometimes a bot can be trained to answer simple questions or triage a series of problems while waiting on a user to get involved. Sometimes, however, bots are used for evil!

Once such example is data you rely on to run and manage your business. Every online customer touchpoint — including websites, mobile apps, and APIs — is likely being attacked by bots. What are these bad bots doing? Interrupting good customer traffic, committing fraud, and stealing information — the cost of ad fraud alone is set to exceed $3.3 billion in 2018!

If all that wasn’t bad enough, bots are also trying to skew the data your company uses to make decisions. Your marketing and customer experience colleagues track user behavior to improve customer journeys or buy advertising. Unless you’re actively defending against bad bots, these decisions could be way off base and extremely costly.

The first step in protecting your company from bad bots is to understand what kinds of bots are attacking your firm. Bots can take many different forms, and depending on their goal, there are many different tools to stop them. Some of the worst offenders are:

  • Sneakerbots, a form of checkout-abuse bots that hoard inventory for resell. Attackers can purchase sneakerbots for a low as $10, with more sophisticated options running up to $500.
  • Bots can act like humans to make it look like certain sites and advertisements are getting more traffic than they really are. For example, advertisers inadvertently paid “Methbot” $3–5 million per day for “viewing” their ads.
  • Web-scraping bots simply troll websites to gather data for purposes such as price comparisons, IP theft, or plagiarism. In fact, they can even use your website search tools against you, which Facebook learned when bots automatically collected identities and information on most of its 2 billion users.
  • Influence-fraud bots are the most insidious; they sway the data your company — and your customers — use to make decisions. For example, a retail site that includes product rating scores could easily make wrong decisions about what products to promote or discount, while false data could also sway customers to make poor purchase decisions.

The possibilities are scary. If you are a company that does business online, and let’s face it, in 2018 isn’t everyone – then you need to understand the threats and how to address them. Reach out to us today to talk about how we can help protect your company from the rise of the bad bots, plus all the other crazy threats facing your business every day.

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