You already have a firewall in place, so you should be protected from bots, right? Not really. Implementing Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) safeguards are not enough to protect oneself—especially one’ business—from bot attacks.
Bot Traffic: Separating Fact From Fiction
There are myths held by many consumers especially when it’s about protecting one’s privacy on the world wide web. Some of these have some truth in them, but many are far from true. The case in point is bots and bot traffic. Many consumers, especially businesses, are confused on what bots are, how they are used, who uses them, and more importantly, what tools are effective against these bots.
When a business ramps up its web traffic, it puts its products and services in front of a wider audience and will often invite the presence of bot traffic. Not all bots are bad, although businesses need to be wary that bot traffic can cost them millions by “buying” goods before the real customers do or even using stolen passwords to take over accounts.
Research by Netacea found that businesses lose an average of 3.6 percent of their online revenue to bots. To solve these, many turn to firewalls or DDoS tools and services in their bid to safeguard their online storefronts. These techniques and technologies are valuable but they’re not enough—and if the business cannot tell the difference between their real customers and bot, they run the risk of making poor decisions based on bad marketing, essentially a big problem that can be compared to ad fraud.
WAFs, for example, are designed to prevent security attacks such as via injecting codes even though some markets have basic bot mitigation. Bots, however, don’t need security holes as they attack the “business logic” of the websites, i.e., how the site works, and WAFs will not be of any help in that regard.
DDoS protection also won’t stop all bot attacks. Although a DDoS attack uses a botnet—aka a network of compromised machines—to overwhelm a site with traffic, bot traffic operates differently in that its aim is to take advantage of the site, not take them offline. Bot traffic often limits how frequently they overwhelm a website with traffic to avoid “rate-limiting” protection.
Not All Bot Traffics Are Bad Though
Although there is intentionally malicious bot traffic that can deal a financial blow to businesses via purchasing products quickly preventing real human customers from buying, or stealing accounts using hacked passwords, a substantial portion of the bot traffic is not intentionally malicious in nature.
Web scraping is a good example of this. This activity is in fact considered an industry standard since the aim is primarily to collect information on trends, products, consumers, and competitors, as explained in the ENV Media study on internet privacy. In some instances, web scrapers utilize a pool of proxy IPs, particularly rotating proxies that assign new IP addresses with every new web request.
It’s worth noting that proxy-enabled scraping is used by many online businesses that put focus on tech-intensive intelligence and operations. AnyIP, a veteran in the proxy server solution industry, provides fast-rotating IPs from over 195 locations and is often utilized by consumers looking to access geo-locked content for localized information on areas like trends, products, consumers, and competitors.
“The tech industry does expect data extraction to continue growing for the foreseeable future. Being highly automated requires few resources (especially for larger companies) and even fewer personnel. Web scraping is regarded as the ‘alternative’ market data that helps not only current operations but also strategic planning and investment decisions,” according to the ENV Media report.
Beyond the industry standard commercial marketing practices, businesses need to be wary of non-human traffic that may not cause “direct damage” to their companies, but can lead them to wrong marketing decisions, and therefore hurt businesses financially.