Bots Rule the Internet

Mark Koschmeder
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Bots help automate many tasks that allow Internet sites to run smoothly. Internet bot programs are often designed by tech professionals for specific business purposes, but hackers and others with malicious intentions have also harnessed the power of bots and whole botnets for their own personal or political reasons. Tech professionals must strive to remain ahead of their competition when it comes to the development of their own Internet bots, and security experts constantly fight against ever more complicated and adaptive hacker botnets.

More than half of Internet traffic today is generated by Internet bots, and these programs may be completely benign. Web crawlers are used by the world's largest search engines to constantly index updated information on existing pages and discover new websites and digital media as it appears on the Internet. Companies often rely on simple bots to make suggestions on their business sales pages as well as track information specific to human activity on their sites. As the ratio of Internet bot traffic to human traffic grows, tech pros may find themselves with more data on bot activity than that of actual humans.

Not all Internet bot activity is as benign as web crawlers. Gray areas exist, especially when it comes to bots that mimic human behavior. Social bots are a real problem in many countries, and these programs are increasingly used to help sway public opinion with a fake chorus of voices. Social bots engineer posts on social media or review sites designed from a template. This template may include disparaging remarks about a person, political party, or company, and the fake posts are likely to spread quickly if the Internet bot is part of a larger botnet. Similarly, some bots exist to defeat programs that attempt to ensure that a human is inputting data. This includes alphanumeric key entry fields on review sites, chat rooms, and forums.

Those working in the field of tech security are likely keenly aware of the existence of Internet bot programs designed to perform malicious hacker attacks. Huge botnets can quickly bring down websites and service providers through distributed denial-of-service attacks. Others may scan for sensitive information such as login data, authentication keys, and financial information. Keeping on top of this kind of Internet bot traffic is a constant arms race due to hackers finding new security flaws to exploit in modern operating systems and software all the time.

Internet bot activity is likely to continue to grow in the near future. Software designers creating their own bots should strive to ensure their goals do not place customers or clients at risk. Data indexing bots help make the Internet an easier place to navigate and can help direct customers to products and services that meet their needs. As Internet bot use becomes more prevalent, bots masquerading as people or botnets delivering attacks may well continue to escalate.



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