What is a BOT?
Bot – An automated program that visits websites, sometimes also referred to as a “crawler” or a “spider”. Search Engines like Google uses bots to crawl websites so that they can be ranked and added to search indexes. Spambots visit websites for nefarious reasons, often showing in Google Analytics as spammy traffic.
A spider is a software application that is programmed to do certain tasks. Spider is automated, which means they run according to their instructions without a human user needing to start them up. Bots often imitate or replace a human user’s behavior. Typically, they do repetitive tasks, and they can do them much faster than human users could.
Spiders usually operate over a network; more than half of Internet traffic is bots scanning content, interacting with webpages, chatting with users, or looking for attack targets. Some bots are useful, such as search engine bots that index content for search or customer service spiders that help users. Other bots are “bad” and are programmed to break into user accounts, scan the web for contact information for sending spam, or perform other malicious activities. If it’s connected to the Internet, a bot will have an associated IP address.
A spider may be:
- Chatbots: a spider that simulates human conversation by responding to certain phrases with programmed responses
- Web crawlers (Googlebot’s): Spider that scan content on webpages all over the Internet
- Social: Spider that operates on social media platforms
- Malicious: Spider that scrape content spread spam content, or carry out credential stuffing attacks
- Malicious crawler activity?
Any automated actions by a spider that violate a website owner’s intentions, the site’s Terms of Service, or the site’s Robots.txt rules for bot behavior can be considered malicious. Bots that attempt to carry out cybercrime, such as identity theft or account takeover, are also “bad” bots. While some of these activities are illegal, bots do not have to break any laws to be considered malicious.
In addition, excessive bot traffic can overwhelm a web server’s resources, slowing or stopping service for the legitimate human users trying to use a website or an application. Sometimes this is intentional and takes the form of a DoS or DDoS attack.
Malicious Spider activity includes:
- Credential stuffing
- Web/content scraping
- DoS or DDoS attacks
- Brute force password cracking
- Inventory hoarding
- Spam content
- Email address harvesting
- Click fraud
These attacks and disguise the source of the attack traffic, bad spiders may be distributed in a botnet, meaning copies of the bot are running on multiple devices, often without the knowledge of the device owners. Because each device has its own IP address, botnet traffic comes from tons of different IP addresses, making it more difficult to identify and block the source of the malicious bot traffic.
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