Efficient businesses require time-saving automation.
Chatbots to enhance customer engagement, site monitoring bots to enhance site performance, personal assistant bots to improve user experience, etc. These “good bots” serve the businesses in some or the other way.
However, the other end of this spectrum is a major concern–the “bad bots.” Bot traffic makes up for half of the world’s total internet traffic. So when your website sees a sudden spike in traffic, it’s less likely that your products/services are doing wonders and more so the bad bots at play.
Through this blog, we’ll go through five effective bot-blocking techniques and strategies to safeguard the future of your business. However, before moving to the strategies, let’s understand bad bots’ impact on your business.
The impact of bad bots on your website
Bad bots leech on any website segment that enables user-generated content.
They flood your website’s forms, comment sections, and other segments with fraudulent links. Data brokers are after your personal information and they’ll find a way. Such a spur of malicious bots damages your business’s reputation and may lead to penalties from legal entities or search engines such as Google.
Other than these, they also badly impact your website in the ways mentioned below.
Compromised user experience
Apart from direct consequences like fines and penalties, these bots also degrade the overall user experience by stealing user data, skewing website analytics, incorrectly blocking actual customers, and deterring conversion rates.
Increased resource costs
Bot attacks demand supreme server infrastructure to manage the increased traffic. Moreover, these attacks take a lot of time and effort to identify, block, and mitigate the ramifications, leading to an increase in overall resource costs.
Increased risk of legal ramifications
Data breach is one of the easiest intentional by-products of bot attacks. These security breaches may cost you legal consequences due to non-compliance with data protection laws such as GDPR.
1. Implement anti-crawler protection to block scrapers
Web scraping in itself isn’t a malicious concept.
In fact, legitimate scraping helps with data analysis, while malicious scrapers wreak havoc on your website by stealing your business data. Preventing scrapers prevents content theft and sensitive data while safeguarding your web resources. The underlying question is – how to block scrapers? Fret not; we’ve listed three ways to implement an anti-crawler protection strategy.
Deploy a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
Deploying a Web Application Firewall is a security measure that filters and blocks malicious bot traffic in real time. It effectively monitors HTTP traffic between the Internet and web applications and protects web apps from attacks like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, etc.
Implement effective session management
Session management techniques block bots using behavior analysis. So, if a user sends multiple requests from the same user ID, your system will catch it and block the user from accessing your website resources.
Ensure robust API security
Robust API security ensures authentication of users and token-based access control mechanisms. Controlling what data is accessible within an API provides an additional layer of protection, as the API doesn’t release all data to every user. So, ensure you implement control access for each API to protect your entire website.
2. Implement CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA
It only takes a text box asking the user to input the given text to identify whether the user is a human or a bot.
CAPTCHA (completely automated public Turing test) and reCAPTCHA are security checks that ensure a user is a human and prevent scammers from using web resources. While the concept of captchas has existed since the nineties, the forms of captcha tests have evolved.
For example, instead of asking the user to input text, another form asks the user to spot a specific object in the image grid. ‘ Select all images with a bicycle,’ ‘Select images with a bike,’ etc. are a few examples.
As bots become more sophisticated, captchas, too, will need to keep up. They may be replaced by biometric tests such as eye scans or increasing the complexity of the captcha tests.
However, having captchas on your websites is all businesses’ basic security standard. These are the strategies that you need to know to protect your data. Regardless of your business size, captchas and recaptchas are step 1 to protecting malicious users from accessing your website. What are you waiting for if you still need to implement them for your website?
3. Use Machine Learning(ML) to detect abnormal behaviors
Leveraging Machine Learning to protect your business is essential in this day and age where 80-90% of all digital data is unstructured. Using ML helps with bot identification and blocking in the following ways.
Identifies unlabeled data
It’s extremely difficult to develop precise thresholds or principles to detect when bot attacks
aren’t marked or specified. ML algorithms are able to analyze unlabeled data and reveal underlying patterns, spotting unusual user behaviors.
Adapts to changing data
One of the primary benefits of ML is it adapts to new data. So if your website undergoes a unique bot attack, the ML model uses the data and builds a model that replicates itself in case the website undergoes similar attacks in the future.
Detects complex anomalies
Bot attacks may take numerous forms, making it challenging to detect them with conventional techniques. Here’s when deep learning models and machine learning algorithms identify complicated patterns and correlations in data, enabling quick detection of such anomalies.
4 .Set up allow and block lists
If you have access control over which users get to access your web resources and which don’t, it automatically prevents bots from hijacking your site.
Allow lists and block lists to grant access control to specific users. While both concepts are to provide access control, they’re two ends of the same spectrum. While implementing these for a global audience is technologically challenging, this strategy safeguards online resources when executed correctly. Let’s understand how.
Allow list only enables website access to legitimate users
One of the key steps to blocking malicious users is to identify them. Here’s when allow lists come to the rescue. These lists rely on the combination of headers and IP addresses to know the bots granted permission to access the website. It automatically denies access to IPs not present in the list.
Blocklists specifically prohibit malicious bots
Blocklists adopt an opposite strategy to that of Allow lists. It shields web resources by pinpointing specific identities and prohibiting access to them. Doing so is a more clear and more nuanced way of accessing control.
5. Enforce continuous monitoring and incident response strategies
Yes, you need risk mitigation strategies in place for when a bot attack occurs. However, even to know so, you need constant monitoring against these attacks. Constant monitoring, thus, is the most important frontline worker for business security. It helps you identify any abnormal behavior or vigilance over your website traffic, enabling you to take quick measures to prevent your data.
The underlying question, however, is – how to monitor your website.
Let’s break it down.
Use real-time alerts and notifications.
Any effective bot management strategy includes real-time notifications and alerts. As and when your analytics tool detects an unusual activity, it sends alerts to the security team immediately. These timely alerts help you stop or mitigate the bots from causing significant harm.
Learn from past bot attacks
Constant monitoring isn’t bereft of analyzing past mistakes. Every bot attack is a learning opportunity as it helps identify frequent patterns, vulnerabilities, and techniques both use. Use this information to keep refining and updating your existing defense mechanisms.
Establish a clear Incident response process
Assigning resources to monitor the website isn’t enough. You also need a well-defined incident response process, including outlining responsibilities to specific employees when a bot attack happens. Doing so lets your team respond to critical events quickly, minimizing potential data breaches.
Time to protect your website from bot attacks
The strategies mentioned in the article will help you as long as you know the current loopholes in your security system. So, if your website witnesses a sudden spike in traffic, your first action plan should be to recall if the same scenario happened and how you tackled it. Checking the incident response strategies comes later.
It’s crucial to be proactive about protecting your business from potential threats and data breaches by bots. If you don’t prioritize security in an online world dominated by bots, the bots won’t shy away from breaching your business’ credibility.
Also, implementing these strategies is never a one-time thing. You’ll need to monitor your website parameters constantly and often club multiple security measures. Be alert, learn about potential security threats, and build defenses against them. If doing it without assistance is overwhelming, take the help of cybersecurity experts. The important point is you’re proactively taking measures to stop these bots from taking away your business data and credibility with them!
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