An internet bot is an application programmed to perform various tasks online automatically. These tasks are usually simple and repetitive, but sophisticated computer bots can also complete more complicated actions. Internet bots can be autonomous or semi-autonomous, which defines how much intervention they require from humans.
Internet bots are used more often than many think. They quietly run on websites and do their tasks, such as crawling, monitoring, etc. However, some bots are much more visible than others, especially if these are malicious bots. Such bots can seriously harm websites.
Let’s start with the explanation of how bots work and then move further to discuss different types of bots and what they’re used for. After that, you’ll learn how bots can be detected.
How Do Bots Work?
Web bots communicate online over internet services. They can be activated by a predefined trigger. Once they’re triggered, bots start carrying out their scripted tasks. These tasks are based on well-defined inputs and outputs, which have to be logical. That’s why bots usually only do simple tasks.
Bots are made of a set of algorithms, which enable them to carry out various tasks. One of the main features of bots is the fact they can work non-stop, as long as they’re connected to the server.
Different bots can function based on machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, or automation:
- Machine learning enables bots to make adaptations based on data patterns and natural language processing.
- AI-run bots, usually chatbots, combine predefined rules and intellectual independence features from machine learning bots.
- Computer vision means bots try to understand and replicate human vision from various videos and images.
- Automation-based bots can run without any human intervention.
What Are the Types of Internet Bots?
Two main types of bots are so-called “good” bots and “bad” or malicious bots. In the simplest way, the main difference between those is with what intention they’ve been created. If they’ve been built for tasks like customer support, they’ll be considered “good” bots. If they’ve been coded to carry out DDoS attacks, they’re malicious bots.
Let’s review different types of bots and their primary functions:
Chatbots are programs that simulate a conversation with a human. These bots can emulate human interaction and answer questions or suggest sources that may have answers to various queries.
The first chatbot was developed in 1966 as a research project. It’s a famous case where a natural language processing program pretended to be a psychotherapist and communicated with people by answering their questions with more questions.
Monitoring bots can be used to monitor the health of a website or a system. If there’s an issue, these bots can send an email or text notification to inform a responsible person about potential errors.
Social bots can automatically post comments on social media. They can also follow certain user profiles to get more visibility or promote certain products or services.
Some social media users buy bots to get more followers, but if done carelessly, this can lead to getting their user accounts blocked, as most social networks don’t allow fake followers.
Spiders or Crawlers
Web crawlers are bots used for crawling sites to index them or create a sitemap. For example, search engines use web crawlers to index websites.
Site owners want their sites to be indexed by Google and implement various search engine optimization practices to get their content ranking higher on search engines.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) bots operate to overload a server with very high bot traffic, which may stop the server from working. DDoS attacks are malicious, and they don’t carry any good intentions.
Spam bots post various content that may look like advertisements to drive traffic to a specific site. These bots can operate on social media, where they have profiles which may look just like regular user accounts. Other network users then receive messages from these profiles with spam content or a prompt to click on a link.
Malware bots can do a lot of harm. They’re often programmed to infect not just one computer but an entire network. Malware bots can break into accounts, steal information, and commit other cybercrimes.
These bots are often spread via emails with links. If one person opens a phishing email and clicks on a link, it can automatically start downloading malware which can infect a system.
What Are the Use Cases of Bots?
Bots can be used in nearly any industry. Since they can run 24/7, perform simple tasks, and learn from data patterns, bots are often used for improving communication and various other processes. Here are some of the internet bot use cases:
Marketing and Sales
Bots can automatically perform time-consuming, everyday tasks in the sales and marketing departments. For example, internet bots can schedule meetings, update various reports, track expenses, etc.
Many companies also use bots for their social media communication. Bots can be a great addition to various marketing efforts. They can respond to messages, interact with posts on social media, or help find potential sales leads.
Chatbots are often used for customer support. Automated bots can answer various questions triggered by specific keywords. They can also help with order tracking or even book hotels or flights on behalf of customers when requested.
Instant replies can increase customer satisfaction, and having chatbots rather than humans answer simple questions saves loads of time and resources.
Store Management Systems
Various companies use bots to help with administrative tasks. This is especially relevant for the supply chain, as bots can track stock, place orders, and carry out other automated tasks. Bots can ensure real-time status tracking, which is much more efficient than monitoring inventory or status manually.
Various bot-run applications can form an entire store management system that covers everything from customer support to supply chain management.
How To Detect Bots?
Internet bot traffic can be detected by monitoring web traffic and investigating any unusual activity. These activities may indicate internet bot traffic:
- Irregular spikes in website traffic;
- Slower server performance than usual;
- Traffic from a remote or unusual location;
- Many requests coming from a single IP address in a short time;
If you spot any of the above, investigate your traffic, as your site may be getting hits from unwanted internet bots.
Malicious bots can also be detected by using bot detection tools. These tools use innovative technology and various algorithms to identify and stop suspicious traffic. They also use historical website data to identify any suspicious activity on the site.
If web owners suspect bot traffic, they can use a web app security platform to ensure their website is protected from bot attacks. Web application security can be ensured by integrating CAPTCHAs, setting a rate limit, which restricts requests coming from the same IP address, and similar actions.
Internet bots are computer programs created to automatically perform various tasks. These tasks have to be clearly and logically defined. As long as an internet bot is connected to a server, it can run non-stop 24/7, which makes bots very helpful.
Bots can handle various tasks. They can automatically perform repetitive actions and even assist with more sophisticated requests, such as stock management or updating various reports. Companies use internet bots to help with marketing, sales, and customer support.
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You can find many types of bots, such as chatbots, monitoring bots, crawlers, etc. In most cases, these bots are considered neutral as they carry out their tasks without causing any harm. However, there’s another type of bots - malicious bots. These programs are created to carry out DDoS attacks, infect malware or distribute spam.
Bots can be detected, and companies take action to protect their computer networks from malicious internet bots. Monitoring web traffic and investigating suspicious spikes is one of the ways to detect bots. Installing various anti-bot tools and using a web app security platform can also help protect websites from unwanted bots.