Keep Your System & Sites Safe From Bots

Bot attacks target vulnerabilities in your system and mess with your stores or steal information. Find out how to detect and block bot attacks.

Bot is shorthand for robot. While the term may invoke images of physical devices, it is more commonly a reference to software programs. In software, bots are programmed to perform a series of predefined tasks. While there are many positive uses of bots, there are unfortunately negative uses as well. Many scammers and hackers rely on bot attacks to take advantage of security vulnerabilities in your system to steal data or implant malicious files in your system.

Bots are sometimes overlooked as a security threat because they are not as dangerous as actual hackers. While they are less of a threat, it does not mean you should overlook bot security. Fortunately, there are many easy methods to protect your business from bots. There are a few safety techniques you can employ, as well as several different programs that protect your servers.

What Malware Bots Do

Before you start setting up security, it is important to understand what malicious bots do. If you blindly try to block all bots from your system, you may cause your own software to stop working because it also relies on bot commands. Malicious bots, more commonly known as malware bots, frequently carry out attacks on your network. Most cyber attacks involve a botnet, which is a collection of bots. Each bot is treated as coming from a different device, so it has a unique IP address. This not only overwhelms your system with requests, but makes it almost impossible to trace the source. 

Botnets grow by infecting other systems. The most common way for a bot to infiltrate your system is through a download. Many scammers will infect emails or social media messages with a bot. Once you open the link in the message, the bot is downloaded onto your computer and starts to carry out a programmed task. This is even more dangerous at work, since most computer systems are networked together, allowing the bot to spread from one computer to the next.

Types of Malware Bots

There are several variants of malware bots to worry about. The most common is spambots. These bots harvest information from your computer, notably your email and social media contacts. The bot then sends out messages to everyone on your contact list. The message often contains a link to download more bots, expanding the botnet. 

A major problem for businesses is chatterbots. These bots infect customer support chat services. The bots are designed to mimic customer support by asking basic questions customers expect to hear, but it also asks for sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. Because it is done under the guise of customer support, customers are more likely to provide this information.

Another dangerous bot for businesses is focused on inventory. These bots create false accounts on your store website and add items to your shopping cart but never complete the transaction. The items are put on hold during this process, so your inventory shows up as sold out to the rest of your customers.

Denial of service (DoS) bots are another danger for businesses. DoS bots flood your system with requests, overloading your service until your website eventually crashes. The other types of bots to worry about are vulnerability scanners. These are bots that look for common security flaws in your system, often targeting valuable information, such as customer data or credit card numbers. 

How to Stop Bot Attacks

There are a few methods you can use to limit bot activity on your server. A common way to limit bot attacks is to add a captcha system to your website. With a captcha system, the user has to perform several additional steps to access your website or create an account. Usually, this involves clicking on images or entering a short string of text. This shows the user is a human and not a bot.

Bots often operate on outdated browsers because the new browsers have additional security features to block bot behavior. You can set your website to refuse access requests from severely dated browsers. In order to avoid accidentally targeting real users who haven’t kept up with updates. For example, if Chrome is on version 40, you could block all requests from version 30 or below.

Bot detection and security software can provide even more options for blocking bots. Most programs are continually updated to address any security vulnerabilities. The updates also add blocks for common data centers associated with running bot attacks, such as Digital Ocean or OVH Hosting. Security software also looks for existing vulnerabilities in your APIs, closing backdoor paths that bots attempt to use to infect your system.

SEON

SEON is advertised as a fraud detection software, but it also has a wide range of options for bot detection and prevention, since bots are normally used in fraud and identity theft. SEON uses two methods to look for bots, IP analysis and device fingerprinting. This looks at how your users connect to your site and checks their online behavior. The system will automatically send an alert if it notices an account performing the same repeated activity. In addition to flagging accounts, SEON can also temporarily freeze these accounts until you confirm whether it is an actual human or part of a botnet attack.

SEON has plenty of security options, but it is one of the pricier programs, starting at $99 per month. A free trial is not currently available as of writing, but you can request a live product demonstration.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare is one of the biggest names in bot protection. Cloudflare is partnered with many internet providers and businesses. They offer some of the best security and specialize in stopping DoS attacks. There are several plans available, with most costing around $20 a month, making it one of the most affordable options. There is even a free plan available, but it only provides protection against DoS attacks.

Arkose Labs

Arkose frequently wins awards for both customer service and reliability. What sets Arkose apart is how frequently it is updated. The company is constantly pushing out updates to address new security vulnerabilities. Unlike other services, it relies on real-time intelligence to monitor botnet attacks. Arkose works with both large and small businesses, but you must request a custom quote from the company directly.