Fraud Prevention

Skill or Shill – Black Friday Battleground

November 25, 20193 min Read

To find the best prices this holiday season, it pays to be anything but human.

It’s been two weeks since the holiday shopping season kicked off. Did you manage to nab a larger-than-life OLED 4K TV in the Black Friday sales? How about the latest Apple Watch and iPad on Cyber Monday? Even if you’re hot on your mouse, chances are you’ll lose out to bots for the hottest online deals of 2019.

Black Friday is one of the biggest sales periods of the year. For some retailers, this time accounts for a quarter of their annual sales. The hottest and most exclusive deals are on offer across the United States, and increasingly around the world. This landmark event attracts millions of sales, and billions in revenue for the world’s biggest brands. So, it goes without saying that it’s also the target for millions of cyberattacks.

The biggest heists this year won’t be from a band of crooks brandishing crowbars, or weaving through a field of lasers. It will be a series of automated — and untraceable — bot attacks aimed at top-shelf brands to secure anything from personal information, to holiday bargains for resale.

The attacks, like their bounty, are equally varied. Some bots will target limited-edition sale items and buy them all before humans have the chance, only to resell them at a premium. Others will brute force gift card combinations and spend their value before they’ve even been unwrapped on Christmas day. Competitive bots will also manipulate the online market, reserving special sale items repeatedly to prevent them from being shown, and forcing customers to spend more elsewhere.

The reality is bots are squeezing customers out of the online marketplace. Bots can run through checkouts with a cart full of discounted products, while real customers are forced to digitally clamber over each other in hopes of securing just one great deal. It will come as no surprise that customers are angry, but what about brands? After all, a sale is a sale — and the profit keeps rolling in regardless if the customer is human or not. And while some brands are none the wiser…others have invested in thinly veiled initiatives, which only stop some of the abuse, to placate public outcry. So, whether these attacks are successful because of oversight or negligence — there’s good reason for brands to care.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark more than just the beginning of the holiday shopping season. They also indicate sales for the year to come, reward discerning customers for their patronage, and help to build trust in the brand. When bots are given free passage, brands end up footing the bill. Sales data is warped, holiday promotions become a disincentive, and customer satisfaction drops. Brands can no longer afford to be complacent in the war on bots. They must stand with their customers and provide guaranteed protection against automated attacks. Otherwise, they are complicit in bots snatching gifts from beneath their customers’ Christmas trees.

Black Friday doesn’t need to be a battleground. Customers deserve better, and brands must deliver.