Website security should be the top priority for any online business. Keeping your website safe and clean ensures that you are operating at full effectiveness – and your users and their data are safe from hackers and malicious bots.
There is a lot of automated traffic running through the internet every single day. Also known as “bot traffic,” it can be both a good and a bad thing.
What is Bot Traffic?
Bot traffic is typically automated and is any website traffic that’s not coming from real human users. We have all heard about the bad bots that have been infiltrating social media accounts and filling inboxes with spam, but there are also good types of bots that make the internet a better place to be.
For example, search engines, like Google, employ bots to scrape information off of websites so that they can be organized into search results.
Copyright protection is another area where bots can be good. This type scans websites for images and other content to make sure that nobody is using copyrighted content illegally. If you own content that you don’t want pirated or misused, then this is a good bot for you.
But of course, there are other ones that aren’t good.
Some bot traffic is created by malicious actors with the intention of manipulating website data or disrupting normal user activity. Just like search engines, hackers can use web scrapers. But in this case, the bots are scanning websites to collect sensitive information that can be misused, like email addresses, contact details, login credentials, credit card numbers, or even images and content that they can use without permission.
Another bad bot would be, of course, the spam bot. These bots fill out contact forms to send promotional messages to website owners, leave bizarrely-worded comments on blog posts, and send emails that are often nonsensical. These automatically-generated messages are posted in as many places as possible.
DDoS networks are a huge source of bad bot activity and can be very damaging to your site, crashing your server purely from volume of traffic. The same is true of SEO spambots, which mimic search engine crawlers but are actually searching your site for weak points in your system that a hacker can then infiltrate.
As a result, it's important for website owners to be able to identify and filter out bot traffic in order to protect their site from damage.
How to Identify Bad Traffic
With so many ways for hackers to get access to your site and its database, how can you keep an eye out for them? How do you know when a bot attack is happening?
Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways of monitoring your site’s security is by watching the traffic. While it might sound overly simplistic, monitoring this metric actually offers a lot of relevant and useful clues that could alert you to a problem before it develops into a disaster.
First, you need a tool that will monitor traffic for you. Google Analytics is an option that is generally effective for most users. The only drawback to using this platform is that you will have to be the one to do the monitoring yourself. You’ll have to look for clues and determine whether or not your site is under attack.
Here are a few ways to help identify bot traffic:
- Look for big spikes. If your site is suddenly experiencing an uptick in traffic and you can’t explain why, then it might be a new target for a botnet – a group of computers whose resources are flooding your system. If you have a spike, take time to figure out where it’s coming from. That might lead you to an attack that you can then address.
- Watch for location. Google Analytics can tell you where web traffic is coming from. If you get a big spike in a country that is not usually a part of your main audience, that either means you have something popular in that country all of a sudden, or it means a number of computers in that area were hijacked and are flooding your site with traffic it may not be able to handle.
- Look for big drops in traffic, too. If your site experiences steady usage normally and suddenly your traffic goes over a cliff, that also might be a sign that something is wrong. Test your site and see if it’s running slowly, if errors are appearing, or if Google has flagged it as malware for some reason. It might be that users can’t get to your site because they can no longer search for it. If organic traffic is a major channel for your business, keeping your site off of Google’s blacklist is crucial to your business.
- Watch for unexpected increases in sales or website activity. If you see a sudden surge in activity on your website, such as an increase in sales, registrations, or form-fills, it could be due to bots filling out forms with fake information
Once you identify the bad traffic within the tool you use and the issue is fixed, you will also want to filter out the irrelevant data moving forward. This “bad referrer” traffic from sites that are no good can impact reporting numbers.
How to Stop Bot Traffic on a Website
Preventing bad traffic is essential for overall website security. As much as possible, you want to keep the healthy, “good” traffic in place. You can’t just block every bot from your site because you still want the good ones, like search engine bots, to access your site. How do you close your site to the bad while preserving access to good users?
One effective way to block bot traffic is by putting a solid firewall solution in place. Sitelock, a Sectigo company, offers an effective Web Application Firewall (WAF). Using the latest virus and bot definitions, our technology scans traffic instantly as it tries to access your site and confirms they are legitimate users, or good bots, before letting them through. The malicious attackers are filtered out and driven away before they have any chance to access your resources.
Located in the cloud and able to be deployed remotely with minimal setup on your part, this firewall service can filter out the bad bots with zero disruption to your site’s user experience. Your website will be protected against security risks such as bad traffic, malicious threats, and DDoS attacks.
The best way to fix a cyber attack is to prevent one in the first place. Monitoring real-time traffic and proactive security on your server are two ways to help ensure the best possible protection against bad traffic. Web Firewall can do all the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to spend your time and energy working on your business.
Contact us today to learn more about protecting your website from possible security threats.