A Beginners Guide to Bots and How they can Affect your Website

A Beginners Guide to Bots and How they can Affect your Website
If you run a website or blog, one of your primary concerns should be the dangers of internet security and cybercrime. Many smaller site owners can be quite blasé about the risks posed online believing cybercriminals only target the largest companies and consequently consider themselves immune to an attack. 

In reality, research has shown that hackers are far more inclined to launch attacks on the sites of Small and Mid-sized Enterprises (SMEs) than any other sector – primarily due to inadequate online security. While cybercrime is constantly evolving and the tactics used by online criminals to infiltrate websites change almost by the hour, one of the most common tools used by hackers is bots.

An introduction to bots

Bot meaning: Bots are small automated programs that run in the background of the web, mostly performing relatively simple and repetitive tasks. They are an integral part of the internet and it’s estimated at any given time as much as 50% of all web traffic is made up of bot movement. Bots are constantly gathering data online – everything from general traffic stats to specific website data and the like.

Bots: the good, the bad and the ugly 

Bots can be programmed to perform either useful or malicious functions, so are typically referred to as being good or bad - and, with a little poetic license, perhaps even ugly. Your website is likely to be visited by hundreds of bots per day so it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

Good bots: Good bots mostly work to improve the internet and understand it better. An example would be Google’s proprietary Googlebot, which scours the web for information and relays it back to the search engine’s vast database. Googlebot powers the company’s Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) and is what makes engine so reliable. Other examples of good bots include those produced by social media companies (e.g. the Facebook Crawler bot) or website performance monitoring bots like Pingdom. As a general rule, good bots are produced by reputable companies to perform a positive function online.

Bad bots: Bad bots are specifically programmed to perform malicious tasks – anything from scraping content from a site (e.g. reviews or privileged company data) to overloading e-commerce sites by adding thousands of items to a cart without checking out. When a bad bot hits a site, it can make thousands of calls on the server, choking bandwidth and slowing the web experience of genuine users. There are thousands of potential ways bad bots can affect your website and, as the programs become more sophisticated and mimic human behavior better, they are becoming increasingly difficult to detect.  

How to help prevent malicious attacks

By their nature, CMS sites are quite prone to security issues – particularly if you’re running third-party plug-ins on your site that perhaps haven’t been as rigorously tested as they should have been or aren’t regularly updated by their developers. You should take great care installing any extra extension on your site by reading client reviews and checking the version release dates. If a plug-in hasn’t been updated in a while, it may pose a threat to security. Also, always keep the CMS powering your site updated and, at a minimum, install some form of trustworthy online security. You could also run a vulnerability scanner to check for bot activity on your site or, better yet, seek the advice of an internet security company. 


The Editorial Team of MyBloggerLab consists of a group of Professional Blogger geeks Led by Syed Faizan Ali (Founder of MyBloggerLab).

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