How to Detect Bots

By Megha Patel

June 30, 2021

Many online activities, such as playing video games and reading tweets, include the use of programmed bots. A bot is an automated software program that is used to make HTTP requests and to perform repetitive tasks efficiently and consistently. Tasks that programmed bots facilitate include filling out forms, clicking on links, listening to music on Discord, posting on websites, and many more. However, the usage of bots can create unintended policy implications and intentional privacy issues, especially when employed in social media.

Many people make use of bots on social media. Surprisingly, in 2017, around 15% of active Twitter accounts were bots and in 2019, a reported 11% of all Facebook accounts were bots. Oftentimes, these statistics increase during periods of significant political and economic change, such as presidential elections or current cryptocurrency trends. Unfortunately, in many circumstances bots play a vital role in delivering strategic misinformation to people. To prevent misinformation from being dispersed, it is important to learn how to distinguish between helpful and harmful bots.

Helpful vs Harmful Bots

In order to properly categorize bots, keep in mind their intent and their capacity to perform human imitations. Helpful bots you are probably familiar with are some search engine bots such as Google and Yahoo. There are also digital assistants, like Siri and Google Assistant. The majority of bots have benign intentions like giving alerts of emergency protocols. Businesses can employ copyright bots to detect violations of copyright law. Some websites program chatbots to help mitigate conflicts and confusion on their web pages. In this way, these helpful bots can foster human-like conversations.

Due to advancements in artificial intelligence, social bots and robots can become a social and emotional support for people in need. Roboticist, Cynthia Breazeal, advocates for the benefits that depend on automated bot systems for education, wellness, coaching, and aging. For example, automated programs can provide personalized support and services, especially for people with autism. Bots have increased efficiency, decreased costs, and driven innovation on the front-lines of AI.

Unfortunately, this increased efficiency can become a disadvantage as well in the case of harmful bots. We have seen bots create massive amounts of fake news and biases that create much misinformation and distress. Recently, Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, reported that close to half of the accounts that have tweeted about Covid-19 were likely bots that spread misinformation along with fear and mistrust. 

There are numerous attacks that bots are capable of: data scraping, spam bots, click fraud, ad fraud, DoS attacks, email collecting, carding, and password overriding. These attacks play a central role in spreading deception on social media platforms and infringing the privacy rights of individuals. One of the ways that they do this is by committing the act of identity theft. Not only do bots tamper with the political and social campaigns, but they also infiltrate people’s private information. One of the psychologically damaging effects of bots is that hateful speech and polarization are amplified through this utilization. Thus, we must work to prevent these malicious intentions by finding and foreclosing harmful bots.

Bot Detection Methods

 

Bots consistently communicate with their targets. If you own a platform, having a large set of data with many, different signals will help you track what norm activities are being compared with high activities. Typically, your activities follow common trends. Bots that communicate frequently, or bot traffic, is much higher than for normal users. If your server or website is slow, this is a sign that bot traffic is occurring.

Behavioral Detection. Bot activity is often repetitive; so, you should look for patterns in mouse movements, clicks, number of requests, pages viewed, and time between pages. One possible solution you can implement that utilizes these behavioral detections of bots and monitors these factors is CAPTCHA. In order to distinguish between human and bot activity, look for efficient, consistent, and repetitive digital actions. These are common cues for bot activity.

Distinguish between the good and the bad bots. Good bot traffic can stem from numerous channels and sources, such as ads and search traffic. Bad bot traffic can come from unique users who often use single IP addresses. They can be well detected and then blocked.

Protective Measures Your Company Can Take

 

Make a VIP List. Companies can use machine learning to create an allow list and a block list. An allow list is used to keep track of the IP addresses and domains of bots that have privileged access to property. It uses a string of code that identifies that the bot is benign to a web server. A block list keeps track of unwanted identities and restricts their access to certain sites, similar to a bouncer that holds a VIP list. This method blocks harmful bots while allowing the helpful ones in. Management systems like Cloudflare provide both an allow list and a block list system to protect your data.

Identity Authentication. To effectively prevent identity theft and brute password overriding, you can properly authenticate users’ identities. Businesses can use an anonymous login, like humanID, to protect themselves against bot attacks. humanID uses a single click with a non-reversible identifier for all of a user’s applications. It does this without storing any private information by deleting the original identifier. This safe password alternative can be used to help companies implement protective measures against malicious bots.

Shockingly, a lot of internet activity includes bots. To protect personal privacy and prevent future cybercrime, it is important to distinguish and detect bots. humanID offers a secure, convenient login experience. We are trusted to protect both the privacy and security of the company and of the individual. 

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