The internet is overrun with bad bots. According to Imperva’s 8th Annual Bad Bot Report, 25.6% of all internet traffic in 2020 came from programs specifically made to conduct many automated, yet nefarious, tasks. This was up 6.2% on 2019’s report, and compared to 15.2% of traffic coming from good bots (up 16%), and 59.2% coming from humans (down 5.7%).
What are good and bad bots?
Good bots are designed to perform beneficial automated tasks such as running website chat services, indexing pages for search engines, site monitoring, and operating personal assistant services. However, bad bot tasks are very different.
They include spam emailing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks (overloading sites with traffic), credential stuffing (to hack into user accounts), ad fraud (creating fake ad clicks to boost revenue), and content scraping (stealing all the content on a site to use it elsewhere).
Bad bots also exist on social media, where they can be used to commit identity fraud by finding out personal information from other users on the site.
How to stop bad bots from affecting you online
Is the plot of the Matrix occurring in slow motion over the internet? Perhaps! But there are plenty of things you can do to stop yourself from becoming a victim of harmful bots online.
- Use a VPN – Whether you’re using the internet from a PC or via a mobile device, using a virtual private network (VPN) can protect your internet activity from being intercepted by a bad bot. Getting one is easy – just sign up to a VPN provider, download the right app, such as a specific iOS VPN if you use Apple products, and run the VPN while you’re online.
- Check the author – If you have been sent messages on social media or via email, always check who the author is by visiting their profile, checking their email address, and looking at their picture. A lack of information, images that look like stock photos, and long, confusing links and email addresses can all signify a bot.
- Analyse the text – While bot language capabilities are ever-improving, bots often sound robotic, unnatural, and repetitive. This can be a good way of working out whether you’re talking to a bot on a live chat window or via a social messaging platform.
Run a good antivirus program – Even if you only use Windows Defender, making sure your antivirus program is regularly running can ensure any bots that have infected your computer are identified and stopped.