Over half of all internet traffic is generated by bots — some legitimate, some malicious. These “bad” bots are often deployed with various capabilities to achieve their nefarious objectives, which can include account takeover, scraping data, denying available inventory and launching denial-of-service attacks with the intent of stealing data or causing service disruptions. Sophisticated, large-scale attacks often go undetected by conventional mitigation systems and strategies.
Bots represent a clear and present danger to service providers. The inability to accurately distinguish malicious bots from legitimate traffic/users can leave a service provider exposed and at risk to suffer customer loss, lost profits and irreparable brand damage.
In an age where securing the digital experience is a competitive differentiator, telecommunication companies, management services organizations (MSOs) and internet service providers (ISPs) must transform their infrastructures into service-aware architectures that deliver scalability and security to customers, all the while differentiating themselves and creating revenue by selling security services.
Bot Traffic in the Service Provider Network
Bot attacks often go undetected by conventional mitigation systems and strategies because they have evolved from basic scripts into large-scale distributed bots with human-like interaction capabilities. Bots have undergone a transformation, or evolution, over the years. Generally speaking, they can be classified into four categories, or levels, based on their degree of sophistication.
In addition to the aforementioned direct impact that these bots have, there is the added cost associated with increased traffic loads imposed on service providers’ networks. In an age of increased competition and the growth of multimedia consumption, it is critical that service providers accurately eliminate “bad” bots from their networks.
Staying ahead of the evolving threat landscape requires more sophisticated, advanced capabilities to accurately detect and mitigate these threats. These include combining behavioral modeling, collective bot intelligence and capabilities such as device fingerprinting and intent-based deep behavioral analysis (IDBA) for precise bot management across all channels.
Protecting Core Application from Bot Access
Bots attack web and mobile applications as well as application programming interfaces (APIs). Bot-based application DoS attacks degrade web applications by exhausting system resources, third-party APIs, inventory databases and other critical resources.
IDBA is now one of the critical capabilities needed to mitigate advanced bots. It performs behavioral analysis at a higher level of abstraction of “intent,” unlike commonly used, shallow “interaction”-based behavior analysis. IDBA is a critical next-generation capability to mitigate account takeovers executed by more advanced Generation 3 and 4 bots, as it leverages the latest developments in deep learning and behavioral analysis to decode the true intention of bots. IDBA goes beyond analyzing mouse movements and keystrokes to detect human-like bots, so “bad” bots can be parsed from legitimate traffic to ensure a seamless online experience for consumers.
APIs are increasingly used to exchange data or to integrate with partners, and attackers understand this. It is essential to accurately distinguish between “good” API calls and “bad” API calls for online businesses. Attackers reverse engineer mobile and web applications to hijack API calls and program bots to invade these APIs. By doing so, they can take over accounts, scrape critical data and perform application DDoS attacks by deluging API servers with unwanted requests.
This category encompasses ways in which bots are programmed to use false identities to obtain access to data or goods. Their methods for account takeover can vary. They can hijack existing accounts by cracking a password via Brute Force attacks or by using known credentials that have been leaked via credential stuffing. Lastly, they can be programmed to create new accounts to carry out their nefarious intentions.
As its name suggests, this category encompasses an array of attacks focused on cracking credentials, tokens or verification codes/numbers with the goal of creating or cracking account access to data or products. Examples include account creation, token cracking and credential cracking/stuffing. Nearly all of these attacks primarily target login pages.
The impact of account takeover? Fraudulent transactions, abuse of reward programs, and damage to brand reputation.
Advertising Traffic Fraud
Malicious bots create false impressions and generate illegitimate clicks on publishing sites and their mobile apps. In addition, website metrics, such as visits and conversions, are vulnerable to skewing. Bots pollute metrics, disrupt funnel analysis and inhibit key performance indicator (KPI) tracking. Automated traffic on your website also affects product metrics, campaign data and traffic analytics. Skewed analytics are a major hindrance to marketers who need reliable data for their decision-making processes.
The Business Opportunity for Service Providers
Regardless of the type of attack, service providers are typically held to high expectations when it comes to keeping customer data secure and maintaining service availability. With each attack, service providers risk customer loss, brand reputation, lost profits and at the worst, costly governmental involvement and the resulting investigations and lawsuits.
These same business expectations apply to service providers’ customers, many of whom require security services. Although large organizations can attempt to develop their own in-house bot management solutions, these companies do not necessarily have the time, money and expertise to build and maintain them.
Building an adaptive bot mitigation solution can take years of specialized development. Financially, it makes sense to minimize capex and purchase a cloud-based bot mitigation solution on a subscription basis. This can help companies realize the value of bot management without making a large upfront investment.
Lastly, this allows service providers to protect their core infrastructure and their own customers from bot-based cyberattacks and provides the opportunity to extend any bot management solution as part of a cloud security services offering to generate a new revenue stream.