If you run a website or manage a website for someone else, you may have noticed the occasional heavy traffic. While more users on your website is always a good news, not all of them are genuine users. A significant amount of this traffic can be fake and this fake traffic comes from a variety of sources. They can be hackers trying to steal your data or spreading malware on your website.
Bots: The Real Users of the Internet
There is a lot that goes on the internet, and the best thing you can do for your website is to educate yourself to prevent any harm. If you’ve been getting a lot of traffic on your website all of a sudden, make sure it’s not fake traffic.
Website Traffic Stats
If you are anything like me, you must be checking your website traffic stats multiple times a day. These stats are a record of the number of internet users who have visited your website. However, most reports claim that about 61% of this traffic is fake (in other words “Non-human”).
According to studies, 31% of the non-human traffic consists of good bots like the search engine, etc. while 5% of it are scrappers, 4.5% hacking tools and 0.5% spammers. Then come the impersonators that roundup for about over 20% of web traffic. These impersonators are bots with hostile intentions, such as spying, stealing data, or spreading malware.
Bots and Fake Users
If you open up the stats of your website and see a huge traffic spike, there is no need to jump to conclusions and celebrate. Chances are, most of this traffic consists of bots and fake users. This fake traffic includes fake users, VPN traffic, web crawlers, and bots.
Let us get into the details.
VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows users to securely access a private network and hide the users’ IP address. It has become famous among users these days. Mostly, people use the VPN service to circumvent geographical content blocking and protect their anonymity online.
However, it can also be used for many sinister purposes like testing geo-dependent services, bypassing social media blocking, and hiding the source of hacking attacks.
Most of the big social networking platforms are struggling against the fraudulent use of their services. There is news of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter cracking down on fake users every now and then. However, often these actions end up affecting the legitimate use of fake traffic.
Let’s say you have a Facebook page. You can see and manage your page as an admin but don’t know how it looks like to visitors. So, you create a new account to see what your Facebook page looks like to visitors. This is an example of a legitimate use of fake accounts. Although there are many VPN services that will allow you to view your page from the perspective of a visitor.
Web crawlers are search engine tools, often referred to as bread and butter of online services. Search engines use web crawlers to check the latest updates on websites and index them. This is used to provide up-to-date information to the internet users around the world.
Not to mention, this not only comes under a legitimate but necessary use of fake traffic. Although there have been occasions cases of malicious web crawlers.
A bot, also known as internet bot, web robot, or WWW robot is a software application that runs automated scripted tasks over the Internet. It can be manipulated or scripted to do specific tasks over the internet by using the web hosting file robot.txt.
While it may sound contradictory, not all of these bots are bad. There are some good bots and some bad bots. The evolution of the internet and technology has resulted in a number of different types of bots. Now the question is what these bots can do and whether you can segregate them to identify the real traffic on your website.
Sadly, these bots are indistinguishable. And even if the majority of bots on your website are good bots, it may interfere with your online ad campaigns.
Most Common Bots Online
Here are some of the most common bots you may find on your website.
Search Engine Bots
Search engine bots are one of the most important bots for a website. Search engines like Google and Bing use bots to monitor and look for the latest updates on websites. These bots help the search engines put these websites in the search results.
In case a website admin blocks these bots from their website, the search engines will not be able to receive any new information from the given website. This may end up removing the website from search engine results, which can be disastrous for a business.
Social Networking Bots
Social networking bots are bots used to form a relationship between social networking users by performing a repetitive set of tasks.
These bots are used in the captcha to differentiate between a human and machine. They are used as a Turing test to determine whether the user (bot or human) can access a service.
Bots are also used exclusively for commercial purposes and generating income. Bot farms are used to manipulate product ratings. There are messaging bots, which are used to increase website engagement by spamming users. And then there are chat-bots that are used in customer support.
Click-bots are used for fraudulent purposes generally in pay-per-click advertisement campaigns. These bots are used to defraud third-party networks by artificially bulking up their ad campaign performances.
Finally, there come bots with malicious intent. These bots are used to initiate automated attacks on individuals and companies. One of these bots, identified as, spambot, uses email addresses on website contact pages to spam users.
There are also bots that kill the bandwidth by downloading the entire websites at once and web scrapers that reuse the website content on automatically generated pages.
There are several robots online, which create quite a ruckus for online businesses. But we cannot curb them altogether given there are some others performing essential tasks online as well. As we all know, the first step to mounting an effective defense is knowing your enemy.