An Anti-Bot (service) is a web application-based security service with the main role of accurately identifying traffic from bots, differentiating between bot traffic and legitimate traffic, and also differentiating between ‘good’ bots and malicious/bad bots. The objective is to limit the effect of bad bots like web scrapers, DDoS-inducing bots, and other malicious activities from your website.
The Anti-Bot service typically acts as a ‘bridge’ between your website and incoming/outgoing traffic. All your website’s traffic will pass through the anti-bot service, which then will detect and filter out the malicious traffic. Only legitimate and ‘clean’ traffic is allowed to enter your site’s server, and this will effectively protect your server from security risks from a data breach to DDoS attacks to business fraud.
Why Anti-Bot Is Important
In recent years, there has been a major spike in cybercrimes involving bot attacks, and this risk is no longer only exclusive for big companies and enterprises. In fact, 43% of cyberattacks are now aimed at small businesses, and only less than 15% are already prepared in defending their digital assets.
On the other hand, bad bots are one of the most significant threats in cybersecurity, so detecting and stopping the bots are extremely important to secure the website. Internet bots are evolving rapidly and have become far more sophisticated than ever before, so an up-to-date, proper anti-bot service is very important to secure your system.
Another very important role of an anti-bot service is to differentiate between the malicious bot activities with the legitimate traffic from your valuable visitors. A proper anti-bot solution features advanced algorithms and multiple methodologies to detect, analyze, and recognize bot patterns, behaviors, and signatures. Advanced anti-bot service can involve unique device fingerprinting, advanced Turing test (including CAPTCHA), user behavior analysis, and so on to effectively identify bot activity.
This is to avoid the condition we call false positive, where the anti-bot solution treats legitimate user traffic as a positive detection of bot traffic.
What Are Bots?
Internet bots, also known as web bots, internet robots, or WWW robots, are essentially a software solution or program utilized to automate simple and usually repetitive tasks. Bots involve close to 40% of all internet traffic in 2019, so there are a lot of bots activities on the internet. If you have a website, there’s a pretty good chance that some (or potentially, a majority) of the incoming traffic is coming from bots.
We can differentiate internet bots into two different types: good and bad. Good bots are beneficial for the website or business, like analytics bots to keep track of your website’s performance, or Google’s (and other search engines’) web crawlers which will allow your site to rank on Google’s SERP.
On the other hand, bad bots are those coming from unregulated sources that involve malicious intent like content scraping, data theft, DDoS, and other cyber threats.
How Does Anti-Bot Protection Work?
A proper anti-bot service should include at least the following features to protect against bad bots activities:
- An AI-driven behavioral detection solution to identify bot patterns, signatures, and behaviors, so it can block them in real-time
- A dynamic script that changes on every request. This is very important to prevent sophisticated bots from finding a solution to bypass the anti-bot solution
- Fully secretive (obfuscated) code that is unreadable by the bot
- Comprehensive fingerprinting database using various methodologies from IP, WebGL, User-agent, and other variables
- Database of bot signatures and IPs to quickly block known bad bots
With that being said, here are how a typical anti-bot solution works:
- Identifying the IP addresses, C&C (command and control) address, and other identification patterns used by criminals to control bots
New bots and new sites are added every day, and there are tens of thousands if not millions of potentially dangerous bots out there. The anti-bot solution first consults to an available IP address database, bot signature database, C&C address database, and other databases to detect malicious bots as they attempt to make a request to your site.
- Identifying the communication patterns of bots and botnets
Different bots and botnets utilize different communication patterns and fingerprints, and using this unique information, the anti-bot solution can identify the botnet family and block all requests from this family. The challenge is that new botnet families are constantly emerging, meaning the anti-bot solution should involve a proper means to identify the unique language of the new families.
- Identification via behavioral analysis
The most advanced anti-bot solutions (for example, via AI technologies), can identify specific actions of a bot to accurately detect malicious bots and prevent false positives. For example, the anti-bot will only block an activity when the bot is identified of performing a DDoS attack.
The key challenge of a proper anti-bot solution is that today’s bots are very sophisticated in avoiding detection. Bot attacks nowadays can rotate between thousands of IP addresses every minute, so IP-based detection is no longer effective. This is why an AI-based detection is now necessary to detect behavioral patterns even from a brand-new bot.
Advanced bots are now very effective in mimicking human behavior like performing non-linear mouse movements, random clicking, and so on, and a lot of them can go undetected by traditional security systems. This can cause a high false-negative—where the bot is being mistaken for a human—, which can be very damaging when bot successfully performed its malicious attacks from attempting data thefts, account takeovers, DDoS attacks, and others.
When choosing between different anti-bot services, it’s important to look for a solution that provides a comprehensive detection system, data visualization, and management features. You should be able to check details about the blocked bot types, origin, and intent, as well as an overview of your overall traffic trends.
Proper anti-bot preventions solution can be an effective way of stopping bad bot activities from launching malicious attacks on your system and should be an important investment for any online business. Remember that cybersecurity threats are not only a risk for big websites and enterprises, but also for smaller businesses.