Bots (short for “robots”) populate the digital world, making up more than two-thirds of all global internet traffic.
These non-corporeal bits of code operate across the internet, within networks, and on individual computers to facilitate automated, repetitive tasks.
Driven by algorithms and scripts, bots do the bidding of their creators and controllers with no ongoing instructions. Launch the bot, and it does its thing–whatever that thing may be.
Within the bot world, there are lots of tasks and lots of bots that perform them. Some of those bots are good. They perform necessary or beneficial tasks with the consent of human operators and only go where permitted.
Bad bots, on the other hand, aren’t so beneficial.
They too have human operators, but those operators instruct their bots to break the rules, go where they aren’t invited, and take what they want. These bad, bad bots violate website use agreements, invade users’ privacy, and sometimes support widespread illegal activities. You must act to stop them from clogging your systems, and that’s why we wrote an entire article on the topic.
What can they do if not stopped? For example, a web crawler that doesn’t stop when it encounters your website’s “do not enter” robot.txt instructions may consume resources you’d prefer to spend serving real website visitors.
Scraper bots locate and record emails and other information they find across the web. Card stuffing or cracking bots may use repeated attacks to gain access to someone’s credit card information.
Simple bots follow simple rules-based or “if-then-else” instructions, while more sophisticated, advanced persistent bots are better at imitating human actions (and evading bot defenses).
Read the most significant, most organized volume of information written about email deliverability.
Spam bots are uninvited content spammers
Spam bots are a branch of the bad bot family tree. There are several types of spam bot but they all share the common characteristic of delivering or facilitating the delivery of spam. No, not the salty canned meat, the other type of spam.
Broadly speaking, spam is content that the recipient didn’t invite or doesn’t want. In the context of spam bots the objective may be to send unwanted messages or to overwhelm a system’s resources.
For example, email spam refers to unwanted messages usually sent to a large list of email addresses that didn’t opt-in to receive them. Unlike marketing or transactional emails that users request and expect, email spam is the digital version of junk mail. Email spammers, along with other bad actors, use bots to put their illicit activities on automatic.
The most common types of spam bots include:
- Email spam bots that send unwanted and sometimes malicious messages to email addresses that may have been purchased, scraped from other websites, or stolen from a database. In many jurisdictions, sending unsolicited emails is illegal and will damage a domain’s reputation.
- Form spam bots that are programmed to seek fillable forms and enter data in the form’s fields. These bots may be nothing more than nuisance bots that add irrelevant data to forms that can easily be screened out. But more often, they are part of bigger schemes to create new accounts, subscribe to email lists, login to or register on a website or download gated content.
Form spam bots are also used to launch denial of service (DOS) or credential and card stuffing or cracking attacks. In these attacks, the bot repeatedly fills a form using various data combinations in an effort to verify which credentials are active and valid or connect a password or other critical information to viable login credentials.
Finally, form spam bots are sometimes used to infiltrate a company’s database or other systems.
- Comment spam bots that imitate human posters on social media platforms, feedback request pages, online forums and blog comment sections.
Why do people use comment spam bots? Some social media users employ bots in an attempt to inflate their engagement metrics. In other instances, the bots are part of an organized effort to spread false information or influence public opinion. Multiple bots will create accounts and the bots then interact–posting and commenting on other bot posts to create the appearance that real people share the opinions being distributed.
Another common purpose behind comment spam is to deposit links and unsolicited ads on web properties. An unmoderated comment section in a forum or blog is a ripe opportunity to add a backlink to either an unscrupulous or scam website.
Spam bots are bad for your business
No matter why the builders of a spam bot decided to launch it, the effects on websites and their owners are bad.
Spam bots can overwhelm your system, corrupt your database with invalid email addresses or other inaccurate data, skew your email analytics, waste resources, hijack your forms, damage your engagement and ranking, and degrade your customers’ experiences.
Defending against spam and other bad bots requires a multi-pronged approach that includes securing your forms, forums, and systems against cyberattacks. Keeping your subscriber lists free of spam email addresses is part of your anti-bot defense system.