Published: 30/04/2020

Bot Management

What is bot management?

Bot management is the blocking of undesired or malicious bot or automated traffic while allowing useful bots to access the web-facing infrastructure. Bot management systems automatically detect and block unwanted bots from entering a website and pursuing a bot attack.

There are two main types of bot traffic:

  • Good bots, which are automated programs designed to index content
  • Bad bots, which are attempting to carry out malicious activities such as spamming or click fraud/clickjacking.

All bot traffic can impact your site with increased workloads on servers and bandwidth usage.

Bad bots are the focus of most bot management solutions because they consume more server resources than good bots, generating significant security risks for online businesses.

There’s no effective way to distinguish between good and bad bots without using special solutions that employ a variety of methods including Web services APIs, proprietary software analysis modules, white lists/blacklists and other tools.

The goal of bot management

The goal of a bot management system is bot control in order to reduce unwanted traffic and improve the performance of your site.

There are 3 key issues that must be addressed by a bot management solution:

Protecting Against Threats from Bad Bots

Bad bots can cause harm to a website in different ways. Some are out to steal information and spread viruses, which may also lead to data loss or system shutdowns. They frequently target specific file types (such as images or PDF files) and try every possible attack vector until they succeed. They can even access databases directly over an API when their main point of entry was blocked after several attempts at guessing passwords for authentication.

Preventing excessive load on servers

Good bots only request information that is already indexed. Bad bots tend to repeat requests, which can significantly degrade the performance of a website. The problem is often worsened by server errors that occur when an application processes too many connections at once.

Reducing bandwidth consumption

Bots consume more bandwidth than regular web visitors, consuming valuable resources that could be dedicated to other activities. This can result in lower page loading speeds and longer waiting times for content to load which will negatively affect your site’s overall user experience.

How bot management software works

Bot management software tools such as Netacea monitor the site’s traffic to determine whether bots are good or bads

The most common method is to use one or more Web services APIs, which are specific channels of communication between the site and a remote server that can be limited to certain IP addresses, such as those belonging to known search engines. In addition, proprietary software modules in the bot management system analyze each HTTP request for characteristics typically associated with robotic web crawlers (such as extensive timeouts and large data requests).

Other methods used by bot management systems include:

Most bot management solutions use a combination of these techniques, because no one method is foolproof and each can be circumvented by a bot operator. If the site operates on an HTTPS protocol, Web services APIs are used less frequently since bad bots cannot send or receive data from the HTTP sites with which they communicate.

Automated threats mitigated by bot management

Bot management systems are designed to recognize and mitigate threats from bad bots. Common types of automated attacks include:

Types of bot management solutions

The two main types of bot management software are client-side and server-side solutions. Client-side solutions are installed on each individual website, while service-side solutions offer a centralized management solution with multiple websites using the same platform. Both provide protection against bad bots.

Client-side bot management

A client-side solution is software that resides directly on your server. This type of bot management application acts as an intermediary between the web browser and the web server, filtering out incoming requests from bad bots to block them while letting good ones through. They are usually easy to set up and use but have limited functionality when compared to other systems because they do not focus on attack detection. If you host your site elsewhere, you will need to set up the software on a server that is in direct contact with your site.

Service-side bot management

Service-side solutions are implemented within the cloud, providing a central management dashboard and a database of bad bots against which requests can be analyzed. The service manages traffic for all websites using the same platform, allowing administrators to add or remove domains from their system to reduce costs. Service-side bot management solutions usually offer more features than client-side ones because they are more flexible and scalable but require additional setup time to implement, making it important to choose an efficient system provider.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Bot Management

Who is bot management software for?

Bot management software is used by sites of all sizes, from personal blogs and small-sized businesses to high-traffic eCommerce websites. Some service providers offer solutions that can be used by all size businesses while others focus on larger enterprises with multiple portals.

How to fight bad bot traffic with bot management tools?

There are a few ways to fight bad bot traffic with the help of a bot management system. Some solutions may offer more than one approach, while others specialize in only one method. How you choose to fight bad bots is up to your preferences and the nature of your business, but it’s important that you have a system in place.

How does bot management software benefit businesses?

Most bot management solutions are implemented in a way that allows you to customize the criteria for blocking bots. This lets you control how aggressively your site is protected and gives you more opportunities to collect valuable information about your visitors, allowing you to make better business decisions based on accurate data instead of wild guesses.

Bots can be detected and blocked without compromising the user experience on your website. Fewer bots mean fewer bad requests, which in turn means less stress for your server and better performance for users. Managing bad bot traffic is a valuable way to protect your site without slowing it down, keeping you safe from unnecessary downtime and lost revenue while safeguarding your brand image online.

Some services offer additional features that help solve specific problems. For example, some detect and block spammers who have already used your site in the past to spam others. Another suggests a way for you to check which page was visited by bots should the need arise (e.g., when you are asked to provide this information on a form).

What to consider when choosing a bot management solution?

Bot management solutions offer different benefits depending on their features and functionalities. It is important to conduct thorough research before settling on one provider over another so that you know what each offers beyond simply blocking bad bots.

How much do bot management tools cost?

The cost of bot management solutions depends on the provider, the features offered and your usage. Low-end systems start at a couple of dollars per month but can quickly become expensive if you want to take advantage of advanced features such as filtering or session storage.

How to get started with bot management?

Depending on where you host your website, installing bot management software can be as easy as browsing through a list until you find one that seems like it would suit your needs and signing up. For example, you can sign up for a free trial of Netacea's bot management software here.

What does the future hold for bot management?

The online landscape is changing constantly and with it the threat of bad bots. As new methods of bot detection are developed, it becomes easier for website administrators to handle large amounts of bots on their sites while ensuring that they do not affect the performance, security or accessibility of their content.

Bot management solutions will continue to become more accurate and efficient as time passes but even today there are a number of providers offering effective tools for you to deal with unwanted traffic without giving up on user experience.

Summary

Bot management is the process of blocking bad bots from accessing web servers while allowing good bots to access the server.

With the right bot detection and protection technology, you can quickly identify bot activity and accurately detect when that bot traffic is behaving with malicious intent.

If left to their own devices, bots can quickly cause issues for:

  • Websites
  • Mobile applications
  • APIs

Too much bot traffic can weigh down servers, slowing down or taking a server offline entirely, and it doesn’t take many bots programmed with malicious intent to perform a whole host of detrimental cyber-attacks.

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