A Leader’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Bot Attacks

Bot attacks remain a significant threat to organizations, with hackers increasingly using malicious machines to target corporate accounts. In fact, one recent study found that 83% of companies experienced at least one bot attack. Even so, many business leaders remain in the dark about what bot attacks entail and why they are so dangerous.  Keep reading to learn more about bot attacks, how they work, and tips for preventing them.

What Are Bot Attacks?

A bot attack occurs when threat actors use automated web requests to disrupt and defraud digital services. Common targets include websites, applications, and application programming interfaces (APIs).  

Cybercriminals often use bot attacks to steal or manipulate data. They may also use bot attacks to take down websites and make them inoperable.

Why Bot Attacks Are a Problem 

Bots may seem relatively harmless at first. But the fact of the matter is they can cause considerable damage to an organization across many different metrics.

Competitive Harm

Bot attacks enable threat actors to steal information and trade secrets and use them for competitive advantage. This may include market data, creative copy, R&D information, or product images. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to catch or put a stop to digital information theft.

Customer Harm

Bot attacks may also directly impact customers. When bot attacks are used to gain access to customer-facing data or accounts, it can leave customers vulnerable to a range of nefarious activities.

Loss of Productivity and Revenue

Bot attacks may also interrupt company operations and prevent employees from accessing internal applications and services. They can make it difficult or impossible for employees to complete their tasks. Additionally, bot attacks are also very expensive, with the average bot attack costing about $2 million per breach. 

How Do Bot Attacks Work?

Cybercriminals deploy different types of bot attacks to achieve specific objectives. In this section, we’ll explore some of the more common types of bot attacks.

API Attacks

API attacks involve targeting APIs to extract data. By exploiting an API, a bad actor can potentially access troves of sensitive and valuable user or application data.  

This method of attack is popular because companies often have poor visibility and security for their APIs. As a result, APIs remain a top threat target for cybercriminals. This problem worsens as companies increasingly rely on APIs to integrate their digital services with other products.

Content Scraping Attacks

Content scraping involves using bots to scan the web and automatically lift data and content from websites. The primary intent is to steal content without the website owner finding out.  A content scraper may crawl the internet searching for specific images, videos, articles, or HTML code. Stealing this type of content allows the attacker to repurpose it without the owner’s permission.

Botnet Attacks

Botnet attacks happen when cybercriminals interconnect devices like IoT sensors, smartphones, and home appliances and use them to execute tasks. For example, a threat actor may create a botnet of thousands of devices and use it to attack end users or systems. Botnet attacks can target specific locations or target users at scale.  

One style of botnet attack that continues to be a problem is a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. During a DDoS attack, cybercriminals amass vast numbers of bots and use them to flood digital services with traffic.  

The main purpose of a DDoS attack is to overwhelm an organization’s host servers and temporarily knock the target offline. DDoS attacks prevent employees and customers from accessing digital services and can bring operations to a standstill.

Account Takeover

Account takeovers occur when cybercriminals illegally obtain large volumes of user credentials and use automated bots to test usernames and passwords for websites. 

Cybercriminals use this type of attack to gain access to user accounts. Once they are able to penetrate a user’s website, they may steal information, make illegal purchases, or lock out users.

Form Submission Attacks

Form submission attacks involve using website forms to exploit JavaScript vulnerabilities. During a form submission attack, a hacker will typically attempt to infect malware or access information.

How to Prevent Bot Attacks 

Preventing bot attacks can be difficult since threat actors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and savvy with their tactics and procedures. But while you can’t avoid bot attacks, there are a number of strategies you can use to reduce risk and make it harder for cybercriminals to execute them successfully. 

Consider taking the following actions to keep your business safe from bot attacks.

1. Monitor Network Traffic in Real Time

One of the most effective bot mitigation strategies is to monitor all incoming network traffic in real-time. Real-time monitoring allows you to identify traffic spikes and take preventative measures when they occur. In addition, monitoring traffic will enable you to identify abnormal traffic slowdowns and investigate whether bot traffic is to blame.  

For example, if your business suddenly slows down in the middle of the day when it should be busy, it could indicate that bot attacks are occurring.  

2. Block Select IP Addresses

Another way to prevent attackers from accessing your network is to purchase known data center IP addresses and automatically block all incoming requests from their locations. This strategy makes it harder for attackers to reach your end users or devices. The only catch is that it may result in real users becoming unable to contact your organization.  

3. Use a DDoS Scrubbing Service

A growing number of companies are traffic “scrubbing” centers to prevent DDoS attacks. This is particularly important in places with frequent DDoS attacks, like Southeast Asia. 

With this strategy, companies route all incoming network traffic to third-party data centers for processing and inspection. Only traffic that looks legitimate can pass through to the target location. 

One of the downsides to DDoS scrubbing is latency due to the excess time it takes for traffic to reach its intended end user or device. As such, it’s important to partner with a local scrubbing service to reduce data transmission times. 

4. Gain Visibility Into All APIs  

As mentioned earlier in this article, companies tend to have poor visibility into their APIs. This is a big problem because APIs act like gateways to applications and data. In most cases, cybercriminals look for APIs that they can easily exploit without the company noticing. And most of the time, API attacks are successful. 

For this reason, it’s critical to gain deep visibility into all of your organization’s APIs. To do this, consider working with an API security provider who can instantly find potential threats across your API ecosystem and enhance them with enterprise-grade protection. By taking this approach, your business can continue to use APIs without putting the company’s data at risk.

Protect Your APIs With Traceable 

In today’s age of high-profile data breaches, bot attacks show no sign of slowing down. Unfortunately, attacks are only accelerating as organizations become increasingly distributed and data-driven. As a result, businesses need to take active measures to protect their digital assets.  

Traceable offers a purpose-built API security platform that instantly enables you to discover and protect your APIs. With the help of Traceable, you can reduce API sprawl and prevent cybercriminals from using them to target your organization. 

To experience Traceable’s approach to API protection with your own eyes, request a demo today




About Traceable

Traceable is the industry’s leading API security platform that identifies APIs, evaluates API risk posture, stops API attacks, and provides deep analytics for threat hunting and forensic research. With visual depictions of API paths at the core of its technology, its platform applies the power of distributed tracing and machine learning models for API security across the entire software development lifecycle. Book a demo today.