What is a Bot?
A Bot is a script or a software program that is designed to do repetitive automated tasks. Things like web crawlers or search engines are designed to crawl the ocean of internet to find out the contents and index it. Vulnerability scanners are also within this domain. Other things like Alexa or Siri is a digital assistance. They are also Bots. You will find them in a shopping site that helps you with your shopping cart. Then you have your sidebar frame that talks about recommendations or the suggested items.
The positive impact of bots:
Bots can help you remember the things by sending them information via text message. There are a few bots that use machine learning model and will get overtime. Wonder is one of the organisations that developed a bot that can learn about the slang wordings like people used to communicate via WhatsApp or messenger. However, the process is not yet commercialized. Though, following are the bot functions that are already in action by many that positive impact of bots:
- Scheduling meetings or appointments
- Troubleshooting IT issues
- Online Shopping and customer service
- Domestic uses like ordering food and playing music
- Decision making and choices
- Avoiding screens while using voice assistants
The dark side of bots:
Some of these Bots are fine but there is a dark side too. They are Bots but they are the malicious ones. Those things are Botnets. You will get these malicious bots by clicking on malicious link or servers delivering malware. You might get this via spam email that comes into your system. It can harvest things like your credentials, browsers or even through your keystroke entries. The impact of bots can also be something like web scraping or stealing information from other websites. They may harvest your own email contacts and then initiate spams.
A botnet is a network of malware-infected computers that respond to hackers on their command. Those hackers are botmasters who control these bots remotely over the infected computers and steal the data. Due to impact of bots, there has been a lot of cybercrime incidents like financial thefts, virus distribution, mass mailing spams, crash websites by multiple attacks etc. It is most common that we download software for a variety of useful and legit purpose. However, some software pretends to be a safe one but can cause the malware attacks upon download. Many a time, the attack undergoes without the user’s attention.
Impact of bots on politics and media
In recent years, there has been a number of fake news, racial comments and radical political comments on the Twitter platform. It seems that some automated accounts and some fake real human beings use the “Hashtag”. A hashtag is to make a twitter account a tweet-circulate more. They use the hashtag to give it some lift. It has become quite difficult to distinguish between real conservative activists and politicians due to impact of bots.
For those who don’t use or understand the mechanics of social media, why should one care what they are saying or not saying? There are many users on Twitter who think they don’t follow any bots and may actually not follow any inorganic accounts. Then they think that doesn’t concern them. For example, imagine you see a tweet, a post that has been retweeted thousands of times. You never check whether these retweets, which make something appear very important or viral, are actually real or not. So, it’s possible to give actual messages like a hashtag to give it more lift and more weight through automated abuse.
Impact of bots on businesses
Many organisations have multiple teams responsible for managing different aspects of their websites like IT operations, e-commerce, marketing and security. All of these teams are influenced differently by impact of bots.
An IT operation team is responsible for keeping application performance high and IT costs low. When you have a lot of bot traffic, that can impact performance and increase costs. Web performance becomes poor leading to a slower user-experience, low customer engagement and lower sales. However, there is more to the business impacts than just the performance. For example, if you’re selling price sensitive goods on your website, then your competitors are probably scrapping your prices to better compete against you. This impact of bots leads to stealing your customers and hurting your sales.
Similarly, your marketing team might be creating enriched content around the goods that your business sells. That costs money. When the competitors scrap that content and use it to sell the same goods against you, then not only does that weaken your competitive advantage but steal your customers and reduce your sales. It also wastes the investments that your organisation made in creating that content in the first place. Marketing might also be responsible for analysing your website’s user behaviour in order to optimize it for greater effectiveness. But when a quarter to half of your traffic is coming from the bots, that reduces the quality of analysis. In turn, this limits you to optimize your site.
How to Detect bots?
It’s wise to armour yourself against the negative impact of bots. So you must have your critical attention to identifying the malicious bots over the social media or emails. Below are a few methods that can help you distinguish between an organic and an artificial account:
- Organic account info: Look at the account bio details. Reverse image searches the profile picture. If it seems kind of manipulated, then you guessed it right.
- Bot identifier: There are a few websites or tools to identify bots. For example, botcheck.me can detect non-human behaviour. Though, it may not be efficient every single time.
- Behaviour pattern: Observe the bot behaviour like tweeting every other minute all day. For example, spitting political or racial comments, fake news, promoting other high-confidence bots most of the time.