What is a bot?
A bot is an automated software application that performs repetitive tasks over a network. It follows specific instructions to imitate human behavior but is faster and more accurate. A bot can also run independently without human intervention. For example, bots can interact with websites, chat with site visitors, or scan through content. While most bots are useful, outside parties design some bots with malicious intent. Organizations secure their systems from malicious bots and use helpful bots for increased operational efficiency.
How do good bots benefit businesses?
Good bots help companies scale operations, improve customer engagement, and increase conversion. For example, companies use customer service bots to respond promptly to customer complaints. Citibot uses AWS to develop chatbots. By integrating Amazon Lex and Amazon Kendra, their chatbots reduce call center wait times by up to 90%.
Bots benefit businesses in many ways:
- Extend operation hours and provide services at any time
- Optimize existing resources and reach a wider audience
- Free up human employees from tedious, repetitive tasks
- Collect valuable data for analytics and business intelligence
What are common types of good bots?
Here are some examples of popular good bots used in enterprise applications today.
Chatbots simulate human conversation with artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) technologies. They can respond to queries on behalf of the customer support team. Highly intelligent chatbots like Amazon Alexa can converse naturally with humans. These chatbots are also known as knowledge chatbots.
Web crawlers, or spiders, are search engine bots that scan and index webpages on the internet. They help search engines to produce a better search experience by extracting data to understand the structure and relevance of web content.
Scrapers, or web scraping crawlers, scan and download specific content on the internet. For example, ecommerce businesses use scraper bots to monitor live product prices on different retail platforms. Marketers use scrapers with natural language capabilities to run sentiment analysis on social media feeds.
Shopping bots scan product prices on multiple websites to help customers find the best deals. A shopping bot can also send personalized recommendations on instant messenger apps.
Monitoring bots limit your exposure to security incidents by constantly scanning your systems for bugs and malicious software. They alert you to unusual web activity by collecting and analyzing user interaction data and web traffic. Some monitoring bots can also work alongside other bots, such as chatbots, to ensure they perform as intended.
Transaction bots ensure payment details are in order before finalizing transactions on ecommerce sites. They check credit card details and personal data accuracy during checkout. These bots are built with highly secure features to protect sensitive financial data.
How do bots work?
A computer bot follows precise rules and instructions to accomplish its tasks. Once activated, bots can communicate with each other or with humans using standard network communication protocols. They operate continuously to perform programmed tasks with very little human intervention.
Different types of bots use various technologies to achieve their goals. For example, chatbots use deep learning technologies such as text-to-speech, automatic speech recognition, and natural language processing to simulate human conversation and dialogue. On the other hand, web crawlers send HTTP requests to websites to read the underlying content. An HTTP request is a communication protocol that browsers use to send and receive data.
What are the types of malicious bots?
Also known as malware bots, malicious bots perform activities that create security risks for organizations. For example, they might disrupt operations, create unfair disadvantages, send out unwanted emails, or attempt unauthorized access to sensitive data. We give some common types of malicious bots below.
Download bots are bots programmed to download software or applications automatically. This creates a false impression of popularity and helps the application rise in ranking charts. By using download bots, an application publisher expects to gain more visibility and attract real human subscribers.
Spambots scrape the internet for email addresses, turn the gathered data into email lists, and send spam messages in large batches. Alternatively, a spambot can create false accounts and post messages on forums and social media. These bots can entice a human user to click on a compromised website or download unwanted files.
Ticketing bots scan websites to buy tickets at the lowest price only to later resell the tickets at a higher value to make a profit. The process is naturally automated and leaves the impression that a human is purchasing the ticket. While ticketing bots are regulated in some countries, the practice is considered unethical.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) bots are malicious programs used to perform a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to affect the availability of a targeted system, such as a website or application, to legitimate human users. Typically, DDoS bots generate large volumes of packets or requests that may overwhelm the target system.
Fraud bots, or click fraud bots, use artificial intelligence to mimic human behavior to perform ad frauds. For example, a fraud bot automatically clicks on paid ads with plans to increase the ad revenue for the publisher. These fake clicks increase marketing expenditure without leading to real customers.
A file-sharing bot records frequent search terms on applications, messengers, or search engines. It then provides recommendations with unwanted links to malicious files or websites.
Social media bots
Social media bots, or social bots, generate false social media activity such as fake accounts, follows, likes, or comments. By imitating human activity on social media platforms, they spam content, boost popularity, or spread misinformation.
A botnet is a group of malicious bots that works together in a coordinated manner. The group performs tasks that require a high volume of computing power and memory. In order to save costs, bot creators may attempt to install bots on network-connected devices that belong to others. In doing this, they can control the bots remotely and plan to utilize computing power without paying for it.
How do malicious bots impact authorized users?
Malicious bots require targeted approaches to detect because they are frequently developed to evade humans and computers. Consider these approaches to protect your IT systems against malicious bots:
- Instill security awareness among employees. Train employees to avoid clicking on unknown or suspicious links in emails.
- Use anti-malware programs and run regular scans to detect and isolate bots in computer systems.
- Install a firewall to prevent bots from accessing your computer.
- Strengthen bot protection and advanced threat detection software to prevent bots. For example, organizations use Amazon GuardDuty to block malicious bots and other malware.
- Use CAPTCHA to stop distributed denial of service (DDoS) and spam bots from disrupting a web server. CAPTCHA is a challenge-response test that allows web servers to tell humans apart from bots.
- Enforce strong endpoint security policies and regulate sharing of portable storage drives.
- Use strong and non-repetitive passwords for different user accounts.
What is bot management?
Internet traffic to your applications can come from humans or bots. Blocking all bot traffic is not the right security approach, as several bots are useful. For example, allowing web crawlers is essential to ensure webpages appear in search engine results. Bot management is a strategic approach that helps companies separate good bot traffic from malicious bot activity. While malicious bots are harmful to computer systems, good bots help to enhance productivity, cost efficiency, and customer experience.
Bot manager software
Bot management involves using bot manager software to classify bots and enforce policies according to bot behavior. Bot managers use different methods to detect if a bot is important or not. The simplest bot detection method uses static analysis to categorize bots based on web activities. Some bot managers use CAPTCHAs to separate malicious bot traffic from human users. Meanwhile, advanced bot management solutions involve machine learning technologies that study the behavioral patterns of computer activities.
How does AWS help with bot management?
AWS provides several solutions that help companies to benefit from good bots and reduce risks from malicious bots.
- Amazon Lex allows companies to develop conversational artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. It uses neural language processing and machine learning technologies to automate customer responses.
- AWS WAF Bot Control is a firewall feature that provides real-time oversight of bot activities and prevents bad bots from impacting cloud servers.
- AWS Shield is a managed security service that protects AWS workloads from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. AWS Shield Standard is available by default for all AWS customers.
Get started with bot management on AWS by creating a free AWS account today.