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Watch Out for These Malicious Bots

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    Written by Richard Kahn
    on June 19, 2018

    Zombies, Scrapers, and Bots, oh my!

     

    Fraudsters use malicious bots to spread spam, steal content, collect personal data, and other nefarious schemes. And with bad bots accounting for 28.9% of online traffic, chances are you will be affected.

     

    By knowing the different types of malicious bots that are out there, you’ll have an upper hand in defending yourself. Here’s what you need to know.

     

    The Types of Bad Bots

    Bad bots come in many forms including spam bots, zombie bots, file-sharing bots, chat bots, scraper bots, click bots, spy bots, transfer bots, and impersonator bots. Each of these bots perform in different ways.

     

    Spam Bots. These spammy bots will collect email addresses from internet sources and send unsolicited spam emails, links, and other kinds of spam. They may also be present on lead forms and comment sections.

     

    Related Post: What the Heck Are Bots, Anyway?

     

    Spy Bots. These bots contain spyware that collects data about a person or computer without permission. Spy bots are primarily used for data collection and surveillance purposes, and can be difficult to detect.

     

    Zombie Bots and Botnets. Zombie bots are compromised computers that hackers have access to and can control from anywhere in the world. While hackers control these computers, users usually have no idea. A collection of zombie computers is called a botnet.

     

    Related Post: Beware the Botnet: When Zombie Computers Attack

     

    File-Sharing Bots. These bots share malicious files to unsuspecting users. This pattern is commonly seen on Facebook, where bots will comment that they have access to the latest movie release, and users just have to click the link to watch it.

     

    Chat Bot. Chat bots emulate human interaction by engaging in conversation. These bots attempt to acquire personal information and often reside on service websites like dating sites, messaging apps, or chat rooms.

     

    South Park Meme

    Source: Know Your Meme

     

    Scraper Bots. Scraper bots are the opposite of good copyright bots. Scraper bots “scrape” or steal high-quality, keyword rich content from other websites and repurpose it on their own sites, skewing your website’s search engine rankings. Stolen content can be hard to spot unless you make a point to search for it.

     

    Transfer Bots. These bots attach themselves to websites and wait for users to click. Then, transfer bots will redirect users to bad sites set up by fraudsters.

     

    Click Bots. If you’ve used pay per click ads, you’ve probably run into click bots. These bots flow through the web, clicking on ads without converting, raking up higher ad spend. A click bots’ only agenda is to click on your ads and cost you money.  

     

    Impersonator Bots. Like their name suggests, impersonator bots disguise themselves as humans and are so advanced that they sometimes go undetected. They mimic human behavior online, filling out forms and clicking through sites. As bots become more sophisticated, security mechanisms like CAPTCHA are becoming easier for bots to crack.

     

    How to Protect Yourself

    Don’t be fooled by bad bots. Now that you’re familiar with their characteristics, here are some extra tips to protect yourself.

    • Don’t click suspicious links.
    • Set up malware protection.
    • Don’t give out personal information on unsecured online platforms.
    • Track your analytics if you’re running an ad.
    • Block sketchy IP addresses.
    • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    For now, it looks like bots will be roaming around the web for years to come. And since there isn’t much legislation to stop them, it’s only going to get worse. Bots make up over half of website traffic, so take caution and make sure you’re protected.

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