Bot Detection

Good Bots vs. Bad Bots: What You Should Know

March 9, 20238 min Read


When it comes to the internet, not all bots are created equal. While software applications known as bots are incredibly useful for performing tasks quickly and at scale, not all of them have good intentions and can be used for either beneficial or detrimental purposes. Bots can range from a few lines of code, designed to automate a dull, repetitive task, to multiple scripts working in tandem to imitate the behavior of a human. Beneficial bots are essential to our daily web activities, while malicious bots can be devastating to a business if it is not safeguarded adequately.

Good bots and bad bots have different roles and objectives, and understanding the difference between them is an important part of successful online business operations. Good bots can help to improve customer experiences, while bad bots can significantly decrease the security of your business. From ecommerce to fintech to telecom, online businesses today need to recognize the differences between bots, including how to guard against the bad ones. 

The Ultimate Bot Prevention Playbook
The Ultimate Bot Prevention Playbook

What are good bots?

Good bots, also known as web crawlers or spiders, are used by search engines to index and categorize web pages. They are mainly used to improve the quality and relevance of search results. Web crawlers can also be used by businesses to monitor their competitors and analyze their website performance. Additionally, good bots can provide personalized customer experiences, such as product recommendations and tailored content. Some examples of good bots include:


  • search engine optimization bots that crawl the web to find ways to improve results
  • social network bots that create better recommendations, defend against spam, and build a safer online community
  • marketing bots that crawl websites for backlinks, organic and paid keywords, and traffic profiles
  • site monitoring bots that monitor websites to detect the quality of performance

Good bots are programmed to obey certain rules and protocols to ensure they don't consume too much bandwidth or disrupt web server performance. They are also programmed to follow the robots.txt file, which provides instructions on which webpages the bot can access and which it should avoid. Also, good bots can be used to detect and prevent malicious activities, such as spam. And they can also be used to detect and block bad bots.

What are bad bots?

On the other hand, bad bots can be used scrape data and launch attacks. Bots are increasing in number and make up close to half of all web traffic. Unfortunately, the activity rate of malicious bots is higher than that of beneficial ones, and they are becoming increasingly intelligent. These malicious bots can be employed by bad actors to scrape information from websites and steal content and images, costing businesses both time and money. Botnets, networks of computers infected with malicious software, can be used to commit attacks by carrying out actions such as creating fake accounts, placing orders, and engaging in click fraud. These types of botnet attacks are costly to businesses, as they are often difficult to detect and can cause substantial financial losses.

Some specific attacks often launched by bad bots include:

DDoS attacks are a type of cyberattack that floods a server with requests until it becomes overloaded and crashes. These attacks can be used to disrupt services and prevent legitimate users from accessing websites and services. 

Account Takeover (ATO) attacks occur when malicious bots gain control of user accounts to obtain personal data, linked bank accounts, and credit cards. These attacks are conducted using credential stuffing and credential cracking techniques, in which hackers acquire information from data breaches and input or use brute-force to figure out usernames and passwords. Once they gain access, they can steal someone's identity or use their credit card fraudulently.

Web scraping happens when “scraper bots” are used to take information such as prices, product descriptions, or other valuable content from your website without your permission. Companies can then use this stolen information to undercut your prices, rewrite your content, or even outrank you in search engine rankings, resulting in lost customers and decreased SEO rankings.

Click fraud, also known as ad fraud, is a major issue that costs advertisers billions of dollars annually. This is due to fake pageviews, clicks, and impressions being generated by bad bots. Not only does this harm companies financially, but it can also damage their reputation with advertisers, which can be a major problem for publishers.

It is essential to protect websites from these advanced bots, as they can cause irreparable damage to a business's reputation and bottom line. 

How are bots getting smarter?

Previously, bot attacks were primarily limited to spamming and web scraping. However, with the advancement of technology, bots are now being used by attackers to conduct more complex malicious activities, such as credit card fraud and API abuse. Fortunately, bot management solutions have the ability to detect the abnormal increases in traffic associated with bot activity, making it easier to identify and block bot traffic. By recognizing the irregular spikes in traffic during periods of low human activity, such as holidays and weekends, security platforms can quickly identify and take action against any malicious bot-related activity. 

In the past, bot attacks were fairly simple, relying mostly on the same type of attack signatures. But bots are far more sophisticated these days, making them harder to detect. With more advanced attack signatures, bots are becoming smarter and able to mimic legitimate human traffic patterns. The automated attack signatures have become three times more complicated than before, which means they are more difficult to identify and mitigate. 

How can businesses defend against bots?

One of the most effective ways to protect against bad bots is to use a web application firewall (WAF). A WAF is a form of security that filters incoming traffic to a network and blocks malicious requests. It’s important for businesses to configure their WAFs to block all known bad bots and to monitor for unusual activities. Additionally, businesses should use two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect their accounts from unauthorized access and should implement a secure password policy to ensure that passwords are not easily guessed. Finally, businesses should ensure that their networks are regularly scanned for vulnerabilities and that any detected vulnerabilities are patched promptly. By taking these proactive steps, businesses can ensure that they are protected against bad bots and other malicious attacks. 

Businesses should also take steps to protect their websites from malicious bots by implementing CAPTCHA software, like Arkose Matchkey, the strongest CAPTCHA ever made. CAPTCHA systems require users to answer a series of questions or to solve a puzzle before they can access a site. This makes it difficult for malicious bots to bypass the system and gain access to a website. It’s worth noting, traditional CAPTCHAs have been rendered ineffective by bots. The challenges of Arkose MatchKey are far superior, as they provide an unbeatable combination of security, ease-of-use, and accessibility. 

To further protect networks, businesses should make sure to regularly update all software and applications. Keeping software and applications up to date with the latest security updates is an important step in protecting against malicious activities. Additionally, businesses should use secure protocols, such as HTTPS, to ensure that information transmitted over the internet is encrypted. Finally, businesses should always be aware of any suspicious activity on their networks and should take the appropriate steps to address any issues that arise. By implementing these measures, businesses can ensure that they are protected from malicious activities and bad bots.

How to kick some bot with Arkose Labs

Arkose Labs helps digital enterprises protect their most targeted user touchpoints from cybercriminals by disrupting the financial incentives behind the attacks. Our long-term attack prevention and account security solutions uncover hidden attack signals and lower attackers’ return on investment, so that good user throughput is not compromised.

The Arkose Bot Manager platform offers a unique combination of real-time risk assessments, machine learning analytics, transparent risk insights, and powerful attack response. Application security teams gain the advanced detection power, risk insights, and options for user-friendly enforcement they need for comprehensive bot mitigation and deterrence.

Contact us anytime to find out how we can help your business identify and stop bots today!