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What is Bot Management (and What Does it Do?)

Cyber Security

What is Bot Management (and What Does it Do?)

In recent years, organizations worldwide and across all industries have been forced to develop and maintain increasingly tight controls to protect web-based assets against cyber threats.

From Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) to DDoS protection services, evolving hacker tactics have forced organizations to continually update their security capabilities to identify and block the latest threats. Malicious bots are one such threat category that poses a huge risk to organizations that rely on web assets—including websites, web applications, and Internet-connected services. To protect against this threat, many security-conscious organizations now use bot management solutions. This article will explain what bot management is, what it’s for, and what you should look for in a modern bot manager.

What is Bot Management?

Bot management enables organizations to detect and manage bot traffic and block malicious or ‘bad’ bots in real-time. It’s not purely about blocking bots—it’s about identifying and categorizing bots and blocking only those bots that pose a threat. Managing bots is a balancing act—you need to identify and block malicious bots in real-time without damaging the experience and access of legitimate users and bots. If your protection algorithms are too lax, you risk allowing bad bots to attack your website, steal your sales, and damage performance. On the other hand, if they are too rigorous, you risk accidentally blocking legitimate bots—and even real users and customers.

An effective bot management solution allows useful bots (e.g., search engine crawlers) and real customers and users to enjoy uninterrupted service while blocking malicious bots—all in real-time.

What Does a Bot Manager Do?

While there are several ways to block bots on your business website, most aren’t effective against modern bad bots, which are more sophisticated than past generations. Secure coding practices and WAFs are still essential to protect your business website, but they mainly focus on other threat categories.

Given the sophistication of today’s bad bots, a targeted protection solution is needed.

Bot managers are specifically designed to identify and categorize bot traffic and block bad bots from accessing your website and online assets. As we’ve discussed in the past, simply blocking all bot traffic would be a bad idea since there are many categories of highly beneficial bots, e.g., search engine crawlers.

Of course, not all bot managers are made equal. Legacy managers rely on blacklists to detect and block bad bots. This is labor-intensive for the customer and can’t be updated quickly enough to protect against new and emerging bot threats.

By contrast, modern bot managers use a whitelist approach, which blocks bots by default while using AI and machine learning to allow legitimate users and good bots to access the customer’s online services with an optimal experience at all times. Modern managers provide a wide range of essential functionality, including:

Behavioral Analytics — Powerful detection algorithms identify and classify bots in real-time, blocking even unknown bots instantly through behavior classification.

Enabling seamless experience for legitimate bots and users — Just as importantly, legitimate bots and users/customers are also identified in real-time and routed directly to your website or application.

Blocking Vulnerability Scanners — Automated vulnerability scanners are a common tool used to identify weaknesses in online assets. Modern bot managers identify and block these scans in real-time.

Tracking Failed Logins — AI/ML algorithms can instantly distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent failed logins and also protect against credential stuffing and password spraying attacks.

Passive Fingerprinting — Lack of on-page detection content protects data privacy and avoids performance issues.

Tracking Bot Statistics — Collects comprehensive bot behavior stats and logs to help your organization understand the attacker and their motives.

Browser Detection — Tracks the browser used by every visitor to your website or application and instantly blocks fake or spoofed browsers.

Detecting Breached Passwords — Checks every login against the contents of all known previous data and credential breaches to identify and block fraudulent activity.

Robots.txt Enforcement — Ensures that all bots and web scanners follow the instructions set out in your website’s robots.txt files and automatically blocks bots that fail to comply.

Why Bother with Bot Management?

In a previous article, we took a close look at the different types of bad bots out there and how they can damage your business website. Very briefly, there are two main categories of bad bots:

Business logic abuse bots, which take advantage of legitimate application logic in a way that wasn’t intended, e.g., creating fake accounts to steal information.

Vulnerability exploit bots, which scan web assets for known vulnerabilities and use automated exploits against them, e.g., injecting malicious code into a website.

By taking proactive steps to track and categorize bot traffic—and block malicious bots—your organization can realize a wide variety of financial, security, and performance benefits, including:

  • Protecting your website and web applications from performance issues caused by heavy malicious bot traffic.
  • Avoiding sales loss due to poor site performance or enforced lack of availability.
  • Protecting user experience for legitimate users, customers, and bots.
  • Reduce server costs caused by malicious bot traffic.
  • Prevent advertising budget and click fraud
  • Protect sales by proactively blocking ‘sniper’ and ‘sneaker’ bots.
  • Block competitors’ from scraping prices from your website to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Remove ‘bot bias’ from web store statistics, enabling more accurate decision making.

The Important of Cloud Bot Management

On-premise and on-page solutions can only identify and manage bot traffic after it reaches the customer’s web server. This lessens the benefit of a bot management solution, as bad bot traffic can still damage site and application performance. The most extreme cases of this issue are caused by bot flooding attacks (also known as DDoS) which can overwhelm on-premise and on-site protection, rendering them useless.

Meanwhile, cloud-native bot managers categorize and manage bots before they reach the webserver. This ensures that bad bots are never allowed to reach protected websites, applications, and online services, while legitimate traffic passes through seamlessly.

Protect Your Business Website from Bad Bots

Protecting your business from bad bots while ensuring optimal performance for legitimate users is essential. To do this successfully, you need a management solution that gives you total control over the wide range of bots accessing your website and applications each day.

Link11’s advanced bot management solution uses proprietary AI/ML algorithms to identify, categorize, and handle bot traffic appropriately in real-time—all with zero human intervention. Bad bots are blocking before they reach your servers, while legitimate bots and customers are ensured a seamless experience.

The solution blocks ‘known’ malicious bots instantly and can identify and block unknown bot threats in under 10 seconds based on their behaviors. This ability to learn on the spot is essential for complete bot protection, as malicious bots are constantly developed and updated to bypass static controls.

Link11’s solution is:

  • Fully configurable, allowing you to set custom rules for any bot class at the touch of a button.
  • Provides zero-touch management with up-to-the-minute bot management rules and functionality out of the box.
  • Continual updates to the proprietary AI/ML algorithms and known bot lists to ensure maximum protection against the latest threats.
  • Powerful analytics and reporting, allowing you to track bot traffic by category and see comprehensive bot behavior stats, logs, and intelligence.

As a result, your organization benefits from uninterrupted website performance and user experience, real-time protection against all bot threats, and the power to categorize, manage, and block bots individually as needed.

Collectively, this ensures a drastic reduction in cyber risk caused by bots, which are among the top cyber threats to websites, web applications, and online services.

To find out more about our industry-leading bot management capabilities, visit our bot management service page.