TECHNOLOGY

Study: ‘Bad bots’ pose threat to e-commerce

BY Dan Berthiaume

Everyone loves a bad boy, but a new study indicates online retailers should not love the phenomenon of “bad bots” visiting e-commerce sites.

According to the 2019 Bad Bot Report from online security provider Distil Networks, “bad bots,” or bots that interact with applications like a legitimate user but enable high-speed abuse, misuse, and attacks on websites and APIs, are a persistent problem for e-commerce retailers. Bad bots provide an avenue for malicious online activities such as web scraping, competitive data mining, personal and financial data harvesting, brute-force login and digital ad fraud, spam, and transaction fraud.

In 2018, 37.9% of all Internet traffic wasn’t human, and there were year-over-year decreases in both bad bot (-6.4%) and good bot (-14.4%) traffic. Human traffic increased by 7.5% to 62.1%

However, bad bots represented a higher percentage of non-human traffic (20.4%), than good bots which perform legitimate functions (17.5%).

Bad bots demonstrate a high degree of sophistication. Distil Networks analysis indicates that 74% of bad bot traffic in 2018 came from advanced persistent bots that cycle through random IP addresses, enter through anonymous proxies, change their identities, and mimic human behavior. The other 26% of bad bot traffic came from less sophisticated simple bots.

Of the top five industries affected by sophisticated bad bots, three are verticals that could be considered retail or retail-related. These are ticketing (number 1 with 27.7% of bad bot traffic), e-commerce (21.4% of bad bot traffic), and online marketplace (21% of bad bot traffic).

The Chrome browser is by far the most frequently impersonated origination point for bad bots (49.9%). A total of 78.1% impersonate Chrome, Firefox, IE, or Safari. The vast majority of bad bot traffic originates from the U.S. (53%), with the Netherlands trailing in a distant second place (6%). However, Russia is the most-blocked country for Internet traffic (33%). The U.S. is the fifth-most blocked country (7%). China is the number three source of bad bot traffic (4%). China is also the fourth-most blocked country for Internet traffic, but is blocked at almost three times the share of bad bot traffic it produces (115).

The 2019 Bad Bot Report is based on 2018 data collected from Distil Networks’ global network and includes hundreds of billions of bad bot requests anonymized over thousands of domains.

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