Bot Detection 101: How to Identify and Block Malicious Bots

Learn how to detect a bot on your website, app, or API and protect your online business from fraud and security threats. Discover the best bot detection techniques and tools.

Bot Detection 101: How to Identify and Block Malicious Bots
Maurice Ferguson
Maurice Ferguson 9 min read
Article content
  1. What are bots?
  2. What can bots do?
  3. Are bots responsible for most of web traffic?
  4. How to identify bots?
  5. How do bots avoid detection?
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

Website bot detection is a getting more attention nowadays. Bots are software programs that perform automated tasks on the internet – and they can be useful or harmful, depending on their purpose and design. In this article, you will learn what bots do on the internet, how to detect a bot, and how they try to bypass detection measures. You will also discover some bot detection tools and techniques for online businesses.

What are bots?

Bots are software programs that perform automated tasks on the internet. They can be useful or harmful, depending on their purpose and design:

Useful bots are bots that perform beneficial or harmless tasks on the internet, such as searching and indexing web pages, interacting with users, or creating and distributing content. They can help users find information, access services, or enjoy entertainment. They can also help websites improve their performance, visibility, or functionality. Useful bots follow ethical and legal standards and respect the rules and policies of the websites they visit. Examples of useful bots are search engine bots, chatbots, content creation bots, etc.

What Is a Sneaker Bot and How Does It Work? | Infatica
Curious about using sneaker bots and sneaker proxies effectively? Use our guide to learn everything about sneaker bots: inner workings, third-party bot examples, legal status, and more.

Malicious bots are bots that perform harmful or illegal tasks on the internet, such as stealing data, spamming, hacking, or committing fraud. They can damage users’ privacy, security, or reputation. They can also harm websites’ functionality, quality, or revenue. Malicious bots ignore ethical and legal standards and violate the rules and policies of the websites they visit. Examples of malicious bots are spam bots, hacker bots, fraud bots, etc.

All about Bots: Definition, Use Cases, and Bot Types
When executed correctly, bots can add immense value to your business — but you need to understand the technology behind them. This article will help you.

What can bots do?

Good bot and bad bot interacting with different services

Bots can do many things on the internet, such as:

Search and index web pages. These are the bots that help you find information on search engines like Bing or Google. They crawl and scan web pages, collect and store data, and rank them according to relevance and quality. Examples of these bots are Bingbot and Googlebot.

Interact with users. These are the bots that simulate human conversation and provide services or assistance to users. They can be found on websites, apps, or messaging platforms. Examples of these bots are chatbots, virtual assistants, and social bots.

Create and distribute content. These are the bots that generate and share content on the internet, such as articles, videos, images, or music. They can be used for entertainment, education, or marketing purposes. Examples of these bots are content creation bots, content curation bots, and content promotion bots.

Perform malicious activities. These are the bots that harm other users, websites, or systems on the internet. They can steal data, spam, hack, or commit fraud. Examples of these bots are scraper bots, spam bots, hacker bots, and fraud bots.

Are bots responsible for most of web traffic?

Traffic activity of human users and bots

According to Statista, the global share of human and bot web traffic in 2022 was 52.6% for humans, 17.3% for good bots, and 30.2% for bad bots. This means that humans accounted for slightly more than half of the web traffic, while bots accounted for almost half of it. The share of bad bots was higher than the share of good bots, indicating a significant threat from malicious bot activity.

How to identify bots?

Security measures like reCAPTCHA, Cloudflare protection, and more

To protect their online platforms from bot-driven threats, many businesses use bot detection measures. Bot detection is the process of identifying and distinguishing between human users and bots, using various techniques and tools. Some of the common bot detection measures are:

Fingerprinting: Fingerprinting is the process of analyzing information to detect the software, network protocols, operating systems, or hardware devices from which a request originates. Fingerprinting can help identify bots that use specific tools or frameworks to mimic human behavior. However, fingerprinting can also be evaded by bots that use proxies, VPNs, or spoofing techniques to hide their identity.

Browser Fingerprinting: How It Works and How to Avoid It
In this article, you will learn all the basics about browser fingerprints — and how you can avoid fingerprinting, too.

Verification challenges: Verification challenges are problems that only humans can solve, such as CAPTCHAs or puzzles. Verification challenges can help filter out bots that cannot pass the test. However, verification challenges can also be bypassed by bots that use artificial intelligence, optical character recognition, or human farms to solve them.

Data Gathering Issues: How to Deal with CAPTCHAs?
CAPTCHA is a powerful tool for distinguishing between human and bot traffic. How does it work — and is it possible to circumvent it? Let’s find out.

Honeypots: Honeypots are traps designed to trick a bot into revealing itself1. Honeypots can be hidden elements on a web page, such as invisible links or forms, that humans would not interact with, but bots would. However, honeypots can also be detected by bots that use advanced techniques to avoid them.

Honeypots: What Are They? Avoiding Them in Data Gathering
Honeypots may pose a serious threat to your data collection capabilities: They can detect web crawlers and block them. In this article, we’re exploring how they work and how to avoid them.

Behavior analysis: Behavior analysis is the process of monitoring and evaluating the actions and patterns of users on a website or app. Behavior analysis can help detect bots that exhibit abnormal or suspicious behavior, such as high request frequency, low dwell time, or repetitive actions. However, behavior analysis can also be fooled by bots that use sophisticated algorithms to mimic human behavior.

Machine learning: Machine learning is the process of using data and algorithms to learn from patterns and make predictions. Machine learning can help detect bots that are constantly evolving and adapting to new situations. However, machine learning can also be challenged by bots that use adversarial techniques to generate noise or confusion.

Threat intelligence: Threat intelligence is the process of collecting and analyzing information about existing or emerging threats. Threat intelligence can help detect bots that are part of known botnets or campaigns. However, threat intelligence can also be outdated or incomplete for new or unknown threats.

How do bots avoid detection?

Bots are constantly evolving and adapting to new situations and challenges. They use various techniques and methods to avoid detection and appear like human users. Some of the common ways that bots try to bypass bot detection measures are:

Using proxies or VPNs: Proxies and VPNs are services that allow users to hide or change their IP address and location. Bots can use proxies or VPNs to mask their identity and origin, and to rotate their IP address frequently. This can help them avoid IP-based blocking or fingerprinting.

Spoofing headers or user agents: Headers and user agents are information that browsers send to servers when making requests. They contain data such as the browser name, version, operating system, language, etc. Bots can spoof headers or user agents to mimic different browsers or devices, and to rotate them randomly. This can help them avoid header-based blocking or fingerprinting.

How to Use HTTP Headers Effectively: A Guide for Web Developers | Infatica
Learn what HTTP headers are, how they affect web performance and security, and how to use them in your web development projects.

Solving verification challenges: Verification challenges are problems that only humans can solve, such as CAPTCHAs or puzzles. They are used to filter out bots that cannot pass the test. Bots can use artificial intelligence, optical character recognition, or human farms to solve verification challenges. This can help them bypass challenge-based blocking.

Avoiding honeypots: Honeypots are traps designed to trick bots into revealing themselves. They are hidden elements on a web page, such as invisible links or forms, that humans would not interact with, but bots would. Bots can use advanced techniques to detect and avoid honeypots. This can help them bypass honeypot-based blocking.

Mimicking human behavior: Human behavior is the process of monitoring and evaluating the actions and patterns of users on a website or app. It is used to detect bots that exhibit abnormal or suspicious behavior, such as high request frequency, low dwell time, or repetitive actions. Bots can use sophisticated algorithms to mimic human behavior, such as randomizing their timing, scrolling, clicking, typing, etc. This can help them bypass behavior-based blocking.

Generating noise or confusion: Noise or confusion is the process of creating or manipulating data or information to mislead or deceive bot detectors. It is used to challenge machine learning models that use data and algorithms to learn from patterns and make predictions. Bots can use adversarial techniques to generate noise or confusion, such as adding irrelevant or false data, modifying existing data, or creating fake feedback loops. This can help them bypass machine learning-based blocking.

Conclusion

In this article, you have learned how to recognize a bot. You have learned that bots can perform various tasks, such as searching, interacting, creating, or harming. You have also learned that bots can be detected using different measures, such as fingerprinting, verification challenges, honeypots, behavior analysis, machine learning, and threat intelligence.

However, you have also learned that bots can bypass these measures using various techniques, such as proxies, spoofing, solving, avoiding, mimicking, or generating. Therefore, you have learned that bot detection is a complex and dynamic task that requires a comprehensive and adaptive solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bots are automated programs that perform tasks on the internet, such as crawling websites, posting comments, or filling forms. Some bots are benign or beneficial, such as search engine bots or chatbots. However, some bots are malicious and can harm your online business by stealing data, spamming, hacking accounts, or committing fraud.

There are various bot detection techniques that you can use to identify and block bot traffic on your platform. Some of the most common techniques include analyzing device and network attributes, monitoring usage patterns and velocities, implementing CAPTCHAs or other challenges, using behavioral analysis or machine learning algorithms, and deploying specialized bot detection software.

Bot detection can help you protect your online business from various threats and risks posed by malicious bots. By detecting and blocking bot traffic, you can reduce your IT costs, improve your user experience, enhance your data quality and security, prevent online fraud and abuse, and increase your revenue and conversion rates.

There are many bot detection tools that you can use to detect and prevent bots on your platform. Some of the best bot detection tools include DataDome, SEON, Ping Identity, White Ops, and Distil Networks. These tools use advanced technology and expertise to provide accurate and reliable bot detection solutions.

There is no one-size-fits-all bot detection tool that works for every online business. The best bot detection tool for you depends on various factors, such as your business goals, budget, platform type, traffic volume, industry sector, and specific challenges. You should compare different bot detection tools based on their features, performance, pricing, support, and reviews. You should also test them on your platform before making a final decision.

Maurice Ferguson

Maurice Ferguson is a Content Manager at Infatica. Inspired by sci-fi movies of the 90's, he was curious to see how technology can be used to help people.

You can also learn more about:

Proxy service demand doubled as businesses recognize the importance of cybersecurity due to new SEC regulations
Proxies and business
Proxy service demand doubled as businesses recognize the importance of cybersecurity due to new SEC regulations

How did new SEC regulations influence proxy service demand? Which search terms are rising in popularity on search engines? Read the latest Infatica's report to learn more.

What Are Proxies for Bots? Everything You Want to Know
Proxies and business
What Are Proxies for Bots? Everything You Want to Know

Learn why proxies are essential for botting sneakers and other online products. Find out the best types of proxies for bots and where to get them.

How Many Proxies Per Task Do I Need?
Proxies and business
How Many Proxies Per Task Do I Need?

Discover how many proxies you need to perform data collection, SEO monitoring, sneaker copping, ad verification, and more.

Get In Touch
Have a question about Infatica? Get in touch with our experts to learn how we can help.