Commonly Used Bot-mitigation Techniques

Bots, today, are advanced to an extent that they can 'behave' and 'interact' precisely like a human. This makes it difficult to identify such bots from between actual human users

Almost half the traffic on the internet today is made up of bots. As explained in the earlier two posts, bots can be used in benevolent and malicious. Since malicious activity causes financial losses to businesses and individuals, it is essential to deploy bot-mitigation solutions that help protect the overall business environment.

That said, bot developers are quick to leverage the advancements in technology to design advanced bots. Therefore, depending on the sophistication of the bots – from basic crawlers and bots that look like browsers to those that mimic human behaviour – appropriate bot-mitigation techniques must be used. Bot mitigation solutions refer to automated tools that use a specific method or a combination of multiple methods to identify and block bots.

Common solutions to fight bots

Some of the common solutions that businesses use to protect against bots are described below:

Static detection: Web requests and intelligence related to malicious bots are passively identified, which allows fraud teams to identify the bot’s identity.

IP-based detection: These solutions rely on the IP address and label the IP address from which malicious activity emanates as malicious. However, as bot developers switched over to Tor, identifying anonymous user traffic became increasingly difficult. Further, bot developers can use easily available tools to spoof IP addresses and hide behind the IP addresses of genuine users.

Challenge-based detection: Businesses deploy solutions – such as CAPTCHAs and ReCAPTCHAs – to identify the source of the incoming traffic as humans or bots. These solutions rely on the ability of the incoming user traffic to interact with cookies, JavaScript, and CAPTCHA codes to classify them as humans or bots. These solutions are based on the premise that bots do not have such pronounced ability to interact with these elements, and will thus be detected. However, today’s sophisticated bots are programmed to behave like humans and trained on the latest machine vision technologies to bypass these defenses.

Behavior-based detection: Advanced bots that can mimic human behaviour enable cyber criminals to orchestrate low and slow attacks. Since these attacks are not a part of a voluminous web traffic, they are able to deceive the fraud detection teams. Using behavioral analysis of every user’s digital intelligence – including HTTP fingerprinting, SDK inputs, session training, behavioral pattern analysis – a benchmark for good users is set. If a web user deviates from this benchmark or displays anomalous behavior, he is flagged for further review. This anomalous behavior is compared with the digital signatures of already identified malicious bots and blocked if found matching. All of these techniques when combined together, enable businesses to detect bots of all hues.

Rate limiting: This technique is an advanced method that limits the volume of traffic coming in or going out from a network. This helps limit crawling of the malicious bots and control the requests emanating from each client or machine, instead of an IP. This prevents any user – whether human or bots – from abusing a website or an API. Using the rate limiting technique, on identifying a bot, the information can be propagated across the network, which blocks the bot from accessing the website or API again.

Multi-factor authentication: The MFA technique uses a layered approach to authenticate a user. In this technique, the user must provide a piece of information that is known only to him. It could be an answer to a specific question or an OTP (one time password) that must be supplied to complete the authentication process and gain access to an account.

Encryption: This method is used to protect data – whether in transit or at rest – from undue exposure.

Practice security hygiene

Despite a plethora of mitigation techniques available, bots are still able to successfully attack businesses. This is because most digital businesses are neither adequately prepared for these attacks nor practice the essential security hygiene. An assessment of their digital assets and security strategies will allow businesses to choose an appropriate bot solution.

At the basic level, however, businesses must keep all software updated at all times. They must use strong passwords and change them regularly. They must sanitize their digital properties frequently to get rid of unused components and plug the entry points, which cyber criminals may otherwise exploit to gain unauthorized access. Training and educating stakeholders including employees is as essential as any other protective measure and must be undertaken regularly.

The article has been written by Neetu Katyal, Content and Marketing Consultant

She can be reached on LinkedIn.

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