Malicious bots are dangerous threats to companies of all sizes, although many firms don’t even realize they have a serious bot problem. Malicious bots are self-propagating malware that infects their hosts and connects back to a central server that can function as a control center. Bots are deployed to attack DDoS, steal sensitive data, and damage reputations. Blocking all bots is not effective because both good bots and bad bots.
What damage can the malicious bots cause?
The biggest damage is that they can distroy your brand. When customers share personal or financial information with you through forms or online purchases, they trust your company to keep data secure. But when a bad bot steals data, it endangers your customers and your reputation.
Second, by spamming your visitors with unwanted download links, malicious bots can get you blacklisted by search engines. Third, interfering with load time, content, backlinks, and even crashing your website can damage your SEO ranking.
Bots can also mess with your analytics by interacting with your site and providing fake traffic data. Bots interact with your ads and falsify your click-through rate (CTR) by clicking on them. It’s called click fraud. Beyond just clicking ads, some sophisticated bots can fill in forms on your site, leading your database to fake customer information.
If your site’s security isn’t up-to-date, injecting malware codes into your HTML header is easy for bots allowing them to redirect your traffic to sites your audience never means visiting. For example, MosQUito jQuery script can take traffic from search or paid advertising to your Joomla or WordPress site and direct it elsewhere.
5 types of malicious bots you should know
Now, let’s look at some of the insidious uses of bot technology.
1. SPAM and SPIM bots
Messaging spam, sometimes called SPIM, is a type of spam that targets users of website-based instant messaging (IM) services, SMS, or private messages. These bots bombard your SPAM inbox by sending you unsolicited instant messages. These bots are usually easy to spot because they typically don’t try to engage in conversation, and often just send you a link to click on to get you interested with some kind of hook.
2. Zombie bots
A zombie bot is a compromised computer that has become a slave to the person controlling it, along with hundreds or thousands of other computers as part of a botnet. They use these zombie computers to coordinate large-scale attacks where all the zombie computers act in unison, carrying out the master botnet owner’s commands. Difficult to detect and eradicate these infections. Many zombie bot-infected computer owners don’t even know their PCs are infected.
3. Malicious file-sharing bots
Peer-to-peer file sharing services users are the ones most certainly to encounter malicious file sharing bots. These bots take the user’s query term (i.e. a movie or song title) and answer the query stating they have the file available and provide a link to it. Then they inject a malicious payload into the fake file. The unsuspecting user downloads, opens, and infects their computer unknowingly.
4. Malicious chatterbots
Dating service websites are often havens for malicious chatterbots. These chatterbots pretend to be a person who generally emulates human interactions. Some people fall for these chatterbots, not realizing they are malicious programs that attempt to obtain personal information from unsuspecting victims, even credit card numbers.
5. Fraud bots
A ton of bots fall into this category. Many of these bots are more like scripts trying to get their creators financial gain by generating false clicks for advertisement revenue programs, creating fake users for sweepstakes entries, generating thousands of fake votes for something the creator is for or against, etc.
How can you prevent malicious bots?
Combating all malicious bots is impossible. The best approach is to take preventive measures so bots can’t touch you first. Here are some basic tips to guard against malicious bots.
1. Use antivirus and antispyware programs. Keep your security softwares turned on and set to install the latest updates automatically.
2. Scan your computer with another opinion scanner. Many antivirus don’t detect botnet-related softwares. Install a second opinion scanner to see if your primary antivirus might have missed something.
3. Avoid suspicious, unfamiliar sites. Bot attacks can derive from these websites.
4. If you are a website owner, consider installing a “CAPTCHA” script. This is used to stop bots spamming pages and forms by requiring a user to type in a word or combination of letters and numbers to prove that the user is not a bot.
5. Avoid unauthorized access to your computer through sources like Internet Relay Chats (IRC) and File Transfer Protocols (FTP).
6. You should never disclose any personal information while chatting online. Even when you’re talking on Facebook, if you notice something odd about your friend asking you, call or write them to see if it’s really them. When chatting with strangers online, don’t click links or give any personal info.
7. Search for content copies. Pull a quote from your content and search it. If you see a website match that you have not given permission to use your content, you are probably a victim of content scraping.
8. Eliminate spam. Browse your blog comments regularly and delete comments containing spam or questionable links. It may take some time, but it means your readers are at lower risk for malware schemes.
9. Block untrustworthy IPs. It’s not 100% effective, as some bots have multiple IP addresses, but you can block bots’ known addresses to prevent them from returning for another attack.
10. Test your site speed frequently. If you notice your site slows down, it may be a sign that bots infect the code of your site. Filter traffic. Traffic filtration helps block bad bots before interacting with your site and cost you time and money. You can make sure your ads appear to real people, not bots.