Bots have become a familiar and ongoing, if unwelcome, presence on the Internet. While many of them are mostly harmless or even beneficial, malware is increasingly common. These nasty bots now account for a large part of cyberattacks.
Although very common, nasty bot attacks don’t always get the same attention as other types of cybercrime. So what are they? Why are they important? And what can you do to prevent becoming a victim of a bad bot attack?
What is a bad bot attack?
A bad bot is an automated program with a malicious purpose. Sometimes it’s just as mundane as buying stocks on demand before real users even get a chance to. These attacks are more dangerous in other cases, however, people’s information is scraped from websites to break into their accounts or leak sensitive data.
Bad bots often act like real people or normal, harmless software, allowing them to slip through websites’ defenses. As a result, it has become shockingly popular despite not making headlines as some other attacks (such as phishing, ransomware, and Trojans) do.
In fact, in one report, bad bots made up 25.6 percent of all web traffic in 2020, up 6.2 percent from 2019.
Why are bad bots such a problem
On top of their prevalence, bad bot attacks can have serious consequences, including doxxing – that is, posting malicious private information on a public platform.
They can deceive users with the information they collect from various sites, which, while not always illegal, can cause great emotional harm and even put people in physical danger.
Some bad bots may not deceive users but use this information to gain a marketing advantage over competitors. These types of bot attacks may not be illegal in areas where there are no data security laws, but they still violate your privacy. Leaked information can lead to more harmful consequences, too.
Bad bots also play a large role in cyber attacks against retailers, which can cost more than $162 million. They do this with the information they search for from multiple sources across the web. After putting all this data together, they can log into users’ real accounts to steal their identities or credit card information.
How to avoid bad bot attacks
In many cases, the responsibility to prevent bad bot attacks lies with the websites they target. Sites can use CAPTCHA, behavior analytics, and other verification methods to distinguish between bots and real people.
Requiring users to sign in with usernames instead of email addresses can also help.
You can also take several steps to keep your information safe from bots. Here are three practices to help avoid bad bot attacks.
Use multi-factor authentication
One of the best ways to protect against bad bots is multi-factor authentication (MFA) – often known as two-factor authentication (2FA). MFA is an optional setup that usually requires an extra step to log in, like a one-time passcode that you get via text message. This simple thing is remarkably effective against bot account takeovers, blocking 99.9 percent of automated attacks.
The bot can easily get your email address and enough information to guess your password by scraping data from other websites. Adding this extra step ensures that the bot can’t hack your account even in this scenario. It will also need real-time access to your text messages (or whatever additional verification method you choose), which is highly unlikely.
Good accreditation management practice
Along the same lines, it’s a good idea to change your credentials between websites. Usually, bots get access to accounts by stuffing credentials. This means that they try the information they found from your other accounts or on the dark web until something works.
Credential stuffing is usually effective because people use the same usernames and passwords across multiple sites. If you use different types, they will quickly become ineffective. The bots can’t find out your credentials from another site if they don’t exist.
Be careful with your information
And you can defend against malicious bot attacks by posting less personal information online. While this may sound like a given or oversimplified, it is a common mistake many people make, and a serious one at that. The more details you have across different websites, the more damage a bot attack can do.
By contrast, if you don’t have a lot of information, bots can’t do much with your data. With this in mind, try to monitor what you post or enter into online forms. Details such as where you live and financial information are especially important to keep personally.
Using an intermediary like PayPal to pay on retail sites can help keep this data secure. Alternatively, you can delete sensitive information from your account after making a purchase.
Stay safe from bad bots
Bad bot attacks are a disturbing trend, but it is not impossible to avoid them. The first step in staying safe is to acknowledge the threat these attacks pose.
You can stay safe if you know what to watch out for and understand the steps to prevent problems. You can then use the internet freely without worrying about your sensitive information being leaked.
Bots can help with simple tasks or automate customer support, but they also kick out spam or fake news.
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