Overview: What are bots?
Bots are just software programs that do repetitive, predefined, and automated tasks online.
Generally, bots imitate human activity online. They were invented to perform tedious and repetitive tasks online to free humans from such tasks, for instance chatbot.
However, over the decades, they have evolved to do more harm than good.
Important bot statistics.
Bad bots account for over 25% of all internet traffic today. Human internet traffic is dropping significantly and stood at approximately 60% by the end of 2020. However, not all bots are bad.
15% of all bots crawling the internet are good bots like Google bots which crawl websites and help us find information easily on Google.
When it comes to stopping bots, the focus is on stopping bad bots responsible for spamming, stealing personal user data, and committing other harmful cyber activities.
While bad bots affect every sector online, they are most notorious in the news, business services, sports, telecommunication (especially ISPs), and Computing/IT industries.
Before you can stop bots from performing harmful activities online that affect your site, app, or personal data, it’s important to know how to spot bad bots.
How do you detect bad bots?
When bad bots invade a website, they leave “red flags” that can be easily spotted.
To detect bad bots on your site, check for excessive commenting on blog posts or other pages. Excess and/or comments that appear to be system-generated or unreadable indicate that bad bots may have invaded your site.
Excessive links and obvious spam on comments are also a red flag.
A high bounce rate on particular pages should also be investigated, especially if it happens suddenly.
The same applies to a sudden increase in sign-ups for newsletters, forms, or other resources. Email sign-ups that appear to be system-generated and login attempts from “fishy” or unknown sources are also a sign of bad bots.
Where should you look for bad bots on your website?
As mentioned above, pay attention to comments on your blog post and other areas. You can even remove any field or section that attract bad bots on your website, like website field in comment form which we see in WordPress blogs.
Unusually high or sudden sign-ups are also an indication of bad bot activity. You can check tools like Google Analytics to investigate website traffic. Web server logs can also highlight the source of traffic.
Effective ways to stop bots.
There are several effective ways to stop bots today. The most notable include:
1. Keeping your site updated.
Stopping bots can be as simple as having an updated website. You should update your customer relationship management software regularly. Your site and all integrations should feature the latest releases. If you have a WordPress site, ensure you are using the latest themes and plugins.
This tip is crucial since most bad bots exploit old versions of themes and plugins to gain access. Website builders have the resources to continuously offer website owners the best security features, which include bot blockers.
2. Add Captcha or Captcha alternatives.
Since bots are software, they can be stopped using Captcha tools that can detect real from automated traffic. You can also incorporate Captcha alternatives like two-factor authentication, requiring users to provide a password and a code sent via email or phone before gaining access to your site.
Biometric security requiring fingerprints, facial recognition, and other biometric features will also stop bots. Captcha and Captcha alternatives introduce activities that are human-like actions that can only be performed by humans, making it impossible for bots to gain access.
3. Monitor failed logins.
As mentioned above, bad bots will try to gain unauthorized access to your site. As a result, stopping them is as easy as monitoring the level of failed login attempts on your site. While it is normal for website users to input wrong usernames and/or passwords occasionally, many failed login attempts are suspicious.
Sudden spikes in the number of failed logins should be investigated. While monitoring isn’t going to stop bad bots, it can lead to actions that will stop bad bot attacks, i.e., prompt a website update.
4. Block outdated browsers.
Outdated browsers pose the same risk as old themes and plugins. Many tools and scripts have default configurations that are usually outdated. Allowing only those browsers that are updated to access your website limits the number of successful bad bot attacks significantly. While there may be risks to blocking outdated browsers, such as reduced legitimate website traffic, most browsers will automatically update themselves, making it very unlikely to browse the web using outdated versions that are more susceptible to attacks.
5. Block known hosting providers and proxy services.
Bot attacks originate mainly from known sources like proxy services and known hosting providers. Blocking traffic from such sources will stop bot attacks significantly. While sophisticated cybercriminals can attack sites from many other sources, most focus on easily accessible avenues like proxy services and hosts with compromised security.
6. Use a bot blocker service.
Websites in niches that are highly susceptible to bot attacks should consider using bot blocking services. These services specialize in blocking bad bots, making them a viable solution for website owners grappling with bot attacks. Bot blockers are integrated solutions. They stay on a site monitoring traffic, comparing visitor information, sending alerts, and engaging in other activities that keep bad bots away.
DataDome is a good example of a bot blocker service tested and proven to stop bots. Others include Cloudflare (uses firewall), hCaptcha, and Google ReCAPTCHA.
As mentioned above, not all bots are bad. The actions you take against bad bots shouldn’t hinder good bots like Google bots from accessing and ranking your website. The best way of restricting bad bots and allowing good bots is to use a good bot manager. The best bot managers have sophisticated features. They use behavioral analysis, AI, and machine learning to effectively block bad bots from your site and server.
There are many ways to stop bots. The above information summarizes the best ways that everyone uses at this time. To get the best outcome, bot blocking should be considered an ongoing task.
The same applies to updating your site and monitoring for suspicious activity.