What is a Bot
Updated on 25th Mar, 22 53 Views

Let’s look at the topics we’ll be discussing in this blog:

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Bot – Meaning and Definition

Bot is short for ‘robot’. A bot is an automated software program that helps in performing repetitive and predefined tasks over the internet. Bots are able to perform these tasks at a much higher rate than human beings.

Bots can benefit your organization but they are also capable of harming you. Once a bot enters your system, it is quite difficult to get rid of them. However, it is more of a trouble to spot the bot itself. For, the bots have the capability to hide in the shadows of the affected computer.

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Computer Bots and Internet Bots

Computer Bots and Internet Bots are tools that can be used digitally for good purposes as well as bad.

Bots are useful in gathering information for the benefit of businesses. The integrated AI in today’s business such as automatic interaction with instant messaging, instant relay chat, or assorted other web interfaces is the result of bot usage. The futuristic idea of dynamic websites was made possible because of bots.

Bots are also used for malicious purposes such as gathering passwords, logging keystrokes, obtaining financial information, relaying spam, capturing and analyzing packets, launching DoS attacks, opening back doors on the infected computer, and exploitation of back doors opened by worms and viruses.

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Types of Bots

There are several types of internet bots and the following are a few examples:

  • Chatbots – Chatbots are predominantly used in businesses for the purpose of customer service. Chatbots may come with limitations. For, chatbots are the type of bots that need constant input and during the course of business, it takes time for the bot computer program to understand how human beings interact. However, there are several technologies that indeed are helpful in training this type of bot technology.
  • Spider Bots – Spider bots are used for the bot’s “crawling” functionality. The bot’s crawling capacity is utilized to follow hyperlinks to crawl the web for indexing and retrieval of web content. This type of bot is very useful to download images, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to enable processing of the retrieved contents.
  • Scraper Bots – Scraper bots are similar to spider bots. Scraper bots are very useful in reading data off web pages. This bot’s functionality is handy in data harvesting.
  • Video Bots – Video bots are primarily used in video games. Such video bots increase your overall gaming experience by enhancing the characters. With the presence of video bots, the character would appear more life-like.
  • Download Bots – Download bots are also known as a double-edged bot. For, on one hand, the bot will be helpful for developers to increase their app’s download numbers.  While, on the other hand, download bots can be a breeding ground for DoS attacks. Generally, automated scripts that cause the automatic download of software or apps on smartphones are collectively called download bots.
  • Social Media Bots – The majority of the world’s population has an account on various social media platforms. The social media bots facilitate various actions on the platform. The bot enables the creation of accounts, increasing the follower base of accounts. Social media bots are used popularly to influence public sentiment and to advocate a certain line of thought.

As an extension to the understanding of what a bot is, the types of bots would have helped you understand the intricate and helpful nature of bots. It is now time to understand the various advantages and disadvantages of bots.

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Advantages of Bots

  • With the correct implementation of bots, you can understand your customer base clearly. Currently, businesses implement interactive bots (known as conversational bots) to know the various aspects of customers such as feedback from the customers, common queries from customers regarding the business, etc. Bots can effectively boost your business by suggesting customers try out various products in the flow of conversation. Since the personalized recommendation comes in a friendly tone, the percentile of purchase will increase by several percentages.
  • Customers might check out your website at any time of the day/night. Due to the overwhelming customer response, your customer service executive might take some time to respond. In several marketing researches, it is said that businesses lose customers due to late responses. To fill the gap of response, an AI bot can be implemented. The bot will keep your customer informed and entertained till your customer service executive can take over the chat.
  • It is important to note that several businesses have started to implement a complete AI bot in the customer service department. This increases the productivity of the customer service executive as well, who now can focus on other tasks which mandatorily require his/her expertise.

Disadvantages of Bots

  • One of the major downsides of a bot is that there will be no “human-touch” experience for your customers. For instance, if your customers ask a new question where there is no information fed to the bot system, the response would be weird.
  •  Bot systems take a lot of time to set up and implement. Needless to say, the more advanced the bot system is, the more pricey it would be.
  • The bot system should be maintained properly to ensure the smooth running of the bot system.
  • Bots can be used for malicious and spam content.

What is a Botnet?

Botnet is short for ‘robot network’. It is a network of computers that have been affected by a single bot or an attacking party, called the ‘bot-herder’. The bot-herder controls all the individual bots in the network. The bot-herder can command all computers on the botnet to carry out actions simultaneously. Botnets can comprise over millions of bots and enable the attacker to carry out criminal activities on a large scale.

Common Bot Attacks

To begin with, bot attacks are initiated by hackers. Initially, the hacker sends malware to your device. The malware creates “zombie devices”. Such malware is usually generated through techniques such as web downloads, exploit kits, popup ads, and email attachments.

In the next step, the “zombie device”, aka, the affected device is connected to the Command & Control (C&C) server. This is more specifically applicable for centralized botnet type of bot attack. On the other hand, zombie devices are connected with other infected devices in the P2P botnet type of bot attack.

Based on the established connection, the bot proceeds with the establishment of malicious activities.

Generally, there are two types of attacks. Namely, the centralized and P2P model. Using the mentioned type of bots, various types of attacks are generated. This includes phishing, DDoS attack, snooping, bricking, and spambots.

  • Phishing – Phishing is a type of bot attack where you will be emotionally manipulated to click a particular link. This type of attack usually happens via e-mails.
  • DDoS Attack – DDoS attack is a type of bot attack which generates massive network traffic to disrupt your network’s/device’s functionality.
  • Spambot – Spambot is a type of bot attack where your details are collected by bots and spam messages are sent via such acquired accounts. For example, your email id is taken from your social media platforms. Utilizing the email id, new accounts are created (related or unrelated to your persona) and the spam messages will be sent via such accounts.
  • Snooping – Snooping is a type of bot attack which monitors your network traffic and injects malicious codes into HTTP traffic. Sometimes credentials are stolen as well. Through this bot attack, the hacker would essentially “snoop” and check the best targets for a cache poisoning attack, the possibility of registering mistyped domains, etc.
  •  Bricking – This attack is initiated by weakening the security of your system by deleting essential software from IoT. This is a multi-level attack and tracing the bot attack is quite tedious. Since the attack moves from one network/ device to another, it is quite difficult to trace the primary attack.

Through the following segment, you will understand the various ways to identify a bot attack.

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Bot Detection

There are a few ways you can tell if your computer has become a part of a botnet:

  • Your computer keeps crashing and you’re unable to identify a reason.
  • Installed applications have suddenly started acting weird. They crash or start randomly.
  • Programs are starting slowly.
  • Your system is taking a long time to shut down or isn’t shutting down completely.
  • Your internet speed has become really slow.
  • The browser now has components that you never installed.
  • The program names in Windows Task Manager are cryptic.
  • You are not able to change the settings.
  • Random pop-ups and ads are appearing even though the web browser is closed.
  • The system fan is working hard even when you’re not doing anything on the system.
  • Your contacts are receiving mails from you that you never sent.
  • You’re unable to download any updates for your operating system.

Protecting your Computer from Bots

By preventing bot attacks, you are preventing a huge financial spend. You can protect your network/ server from bot attacks in the following ways:

  • Keep your cyber security mechanism upgraded and updated.  Bot attacks prey on your system vulnerabilities. Through the update, make sure that there is no such open vulnerability.
  • Invest in the best cyber security systems to keep away bot attacks. Cheaper cyber security alternatives may have a faulty aspect that can open a portal for any bot attack.
  • Implement multi-factor authentications to all your systems and networks.
  • Do not repeat any of your personal passwords in the professional space to prevent hackers from guessing your passwords easily.
  • Keep an eye on the network traffic. Immediately look into any suspicious activity.

Conclusion

Bot attacks are always evolving. Cyber security does provide safety to your network and device. By utilizing the cyber security systems properly, you can keep away bot attacks to a great extent. By keeping away bot attacks, ensure to make use of the good side of bots as well!

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