Just like bad apples can taint an otherwise good bunch, bad bots can wreak havoc on your personal and professional lives online. The question is, what exactly are bad bots, and how common are they?
To understand what a bad bot is, you must fully understand what bots are in general. Simply put, bots are internet applications that run automated tasks online. The tasks that these bots perform are simple but are completed at a much higher rate than the average human internet activity.
According to HelpNet Security, there’s actually a lot of bots (i.e., hundreds of millions) hanging out on the internet. Believe it or not, about 64% of all internet traffic is generated via bots, and this traffic consists of 25% good bots, and 39% bad bots. Good bots are things like search engine crawlers, automated chat bots, and social media bots.
What Is A Bad Bot?
Bad bots, sometimes referred to as malware bots, are essentially internet applications that run malicious tasks online. Sometimes these tasks are targeted to specific websites, mobile apps, and/or APIs. Examples of these tasks include brute-force login attempts, website scraping, competitive data mining, spam, transaction fraud, data harvesting, and more.
Unfortunately, the number of bad bots online has reached record-numbers in recent years, and they show no signs of slowing down. HelpNet Security’s annual report indicated that the top two targets for bad bots are login portals and eCommerce applications. This is why it’s so critical to stay informed of the latest cybersecurity threats and learn what you can do to thwart them.
Bad Bots And What They Can Do To Your Website
Picture this: You go to your favorite online shop to purchase a birthday present or some kind of treat for yourself. An hour later or so, you receive a series of fraud alerts on the credit card you used on that website. Odds are, you’ll never go back there again.
Now, imagine this happening to your customers when they visit YOUR website. This scenario is unfortunately just one of the many horrible things bad bots are capable of achieving. Bad bots and cybercrime are interlinked, and it’s in your best interest to avoid both.
That said, here are just a few of the nasty things bad bots can do to your website:
Bad Bots Can Harvest Sensitive Data
The most basic bad bots are capable of stealing any information that customers enter into forms, polls, and comments. However, more advanced bots are also capable of stealing financial information, and other sensitive data.
Bad Bots Can Tarnish Your Brand
If a string of customers start posting negative reviews online about how your company accidentally leaked their information, what type of reputation do you think you will get? Not a very good one to say the very least.
The worst part? Bad bots can actually be created to generate bad reviews about your company! Imagine being flooded with comments like:
- Horrible customer service
- Do not recommend this place
- Bad experience
Yes, this can happen! Sometimes it’s just a competitor. Other times it’s a cybercriminal trying to wreak havoc to stir up trouble in the market.
Bad bots can also spam fake comments for your website or product. These are the random people with no profile picture, brand new accounts, unverified purchases, weird text, and malicious links at the ready for every blog post you hit publish on.
Brand images take years to build up, and they can crumble in days thanks to bad bots.
Bad Bots Can Get You Blacklisted
If your website gets flagged or reported enough times, search engines like Google and Bing will automatically blacklist your website. What happens when a website gets blacklisted? It means that each time a visitor tries to click on your website, a security warning will appear in bright red.
Something like this has the potential to completely ruin any credibility your website had before being blacklisted. Visitors can manually bypass the warning, but most people being security conscious these days will jump ship within seconds of seeing this screen.
Bad Bots Can Steal And Plagiarize Your Content
Bad bots can copy and plagiarize all the amazing content you’ve spent time and resources crafting. This is also known as website scraping. Of course, you won’t be credited. However, your SEO ranking might tank as a result. If a search engine detects duplicate or syndicated content popping up on different websites, especially ones with laden malware or spam, your site might be punished even if you were the original creator.
Your competitors could start ranking higher, and you could stand to lose an untold number of customers and potential revenue.
Bad Bots Can Disrupt Your Analytics
Analytics are what website owners use to learn where they can improve. Sadly, bad bots can disrupt your analytics in a variety of ways rendering any numbers you receive all but useless. With bad bots lingering around, your website traffic, traffic sources, click-through rates (CTRs), interactions, and many other metrics can become skewed. As a result, any marketing efforts you may implement could actually be counterintuitive to your success.
Bad Bots Can Crash Your Website
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks can occur when too much data is flooded into a single system until that system crashes. While the average attack only lasts a few minutes, that’s all it takes to cripple a network and cost a company $120,000 to $2 million.
Prior to a website crash, a website will also see noticeable speed decreases that will increase bounce rates. That’s because all bots bring hefty chunks of data with them when they visit your site. An increase in bounce rate and decrease in speed can also harm your SEO ranking!
Bad Bots Can Infect Your Site With Malware
Some would consider this to be the biggest consequence of bad bots. Certain bad bots can infiltrate websites, and when somebody visits that website, they’ll automatically download malware. Malware can negatively impact both your company and your visitors, and could spread to other websites, your computer, and other devices.
Preventing Bad Bots From Ruining Your Website
Scarier than ghosts, werewolves, and witches, bad bots are real, and should be feared. The good news is you can create some protections against bad bots. Two of the most common “repellants” are website security scanners and malware removal tools.
Website Security Scanners
Think of website security scanners as tools to increase peace of mind for both you and your visitors. These applications offer bad bot protection by searching for and destroying them and other dangerous security vulnerabilities. Quality website security scanners are easy to use and don’t require a lot of technical skills or knowledge to implement. These applications perform SSL scans, malware scans, cross-site scripting scans, and more on a daily basis.
Malware Removal Tools
Malware removal tools work in tandem with website security scanners to offer even more protection. Look for malware removal tools that are easy to use, and that provide protection round the cloud.
To Wrap Up
Bad bots are up to no good. These bots are created by criminals, fraudsters, and other nefarious parties to profit from the problems they cause. The more we learn about security threats like bad bots, however, the easier it is to combat them. Hopefully this post has inspired you to look into protection software for your own website. Cybercrime is one war that requires as much defense as possible, and you deserve to have tools working 24/7 to keep your online assets safe.