Rising Bot and Botnet Threats: A Comprehensive Look at Attacks and Countermeasures
A big opponent in the ever-changing field of cybersecurity threats: bot assaults. Companies are often not prepared to handle this rising threat and struggle to detect and neutralize bot infiltrations, or botnets. Often firms are relying on biased data and therefore unknowingly, make ill-informed judgments and incurring financial losses. Read on to learn about the alarming statistics and technological difficulties involved with bot assaults, underlining the critical necessity for comprehensive prevention measures.
A recent survey of 440 organizations from various industries highlights a troubling trend: the average time it takes for businesses to recognize and mitigate bot assaults has risen to a startling 16 weeks. (Source: SecurityMagazine.com) This means that dangerous bots may penetrate and function within businesses for over four months without being noticed. This lengthy timeframe provides attackers with adequate time to wreak havoc, compromise critical data, and cause catastrophic harm before their actions are discovered. Here are a few stats from recent years on how bot attacks affected several industries.
1. Impact on E-commerce:
- In 2022, bot-driven scalping accounted for 40% of ticket purchases for major concerts and events, causing frustration for genuine customers and resulting in lost revenue for businesses. (Source: Distil Networks)
- Bot attacks on e-commerce sites increased by 57.6% in 2021 compared to the previous year, with industries such as fashion, luxury goods, and electronics being prime targets. (Source: Imperva)
2. Account Takeover Attacks:
- Account takeover attacks rose by 30% in 2021, affecting various industries, including financial services, online gaming, and e-commerce. (Source: Forter)
- A study found that 80% of organizations experienced at least one account takeover incident in 2020, leading to significant financial losses and reputational damage. (Source: Ponemon Institute)
3. Credential Stuffing:
- In 2022, there were over 80 billion credential-stuffing attacks, resulting in massive data breaches and compromising user accounts across multiple platforms. (Source: Akamai)
- According to Kaspersky's 2021 Incident Response Analyst Report, the percentage of brute force assaults climbed from 13% in 2020 to 31.6% in 2021 due to their simplicity.
- The average cost of a credential-stuffing attack for a business is estimated to be around $6 million, including direct financial losses and post-attack mitigation efforts. (Source: Ponemon Institute)
4. Impact on Digital Advertising:
- Bot-driven ad fraud cost businesses an estimated $42 billion globally in 2020, accounting for approximately 15% of all digital ad spending. (Source: Juniper Research)
- Non-human traffic, including bot traffic, made up 20% of all web traffic in 2020, impacting ad viewability and campaign effectiveness. (Source: Pixalate)
5. Data Scraping and Intellectual Property Theft:
- 48% of businesses reported incidents of data scraping in 2021, with the most targeted sectors being travel, retail, and publishing. (Source: F5 Labs)
- Intellectual property theft through bot-driven data scraping costs companies an estimated $500 billion annually. (Source: World Intellectual Property Organization)
Businesses still face significant misconceptions regarding the origin, intent, and complexity of bots and botnet. A staggering 49% of respondents in the study incorrectly perceive all bot users as criminals. This flawed understanding hampers the ability to effectively combat bot infiltrations. While some bot activities, such as credential stuffing and account takeovers, are indeed illegal, other activities like buying high-demand items for resale remain within legal boundaries.
Let's understand how bots and botnets are different:.
Bots: Bots are automated programs that are programmed to accomplish certain activities, which can range from basic operations like site scraping to more complicated duties like account takeover assaults.
Botnet: A botnet is a cyberattack that employs a swarm of bots to target a server, a commercial website, or other devices or persons. While all botnets have the same goal, different types of botnets accomplish this goal in different ways. Botnets are widely used in the following ways:
a.) Botnets using Internet Relay Channel:
An internet relay chatbot (IRC bot) is a program that automates chores and interactions in an IRC chat room or channel while masquerading as a human user. While IRC chatbots can be genuine, the technology is frequently used in botnet assaults.
Botnet operators frequently utilize IRC to deliver commands to the swarm's component computers. This can be done in a single channel, a public IRC chain, or a separate IRC server. The IRC server that includes the channel(s) used to control bots is referred to as a "command and control" server. IRC bots are frequently deployed by chat room or channel administrators as distinct hosted and independent software. The IRC bot-installed device can now be managed by commands transmitted over the IRC channel.
b.) Automated Botnets:
These botnets function without human interaction or control. They infect victim's systems and utilize computer resources, such as local CPU and network bandwidth, to execute DDoS attacks at the hacker's direction. This category of botnets is meant to be difficult to detect, even with antivirus software.
c.) HTTP Botnets:
Web-based botnets are hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) botnets. The bot herder sends instructions to the bots over HTTP, and the bots check the server for new updates and activities. The HTTP protocol allows the herder to disguise his operations as ordinary internet traffic and avoid detection by existing detection technologies such as desktop firewalls.
d.) P2P Botnets:
A peer-to-peer network, often known as a P2P network, is a computer network in which two or more computers are linked and share resources (such as content, storage, and CPU cycles) directly rather than through a server or authority that manages centralized resources.
P2P botnets are trickier to deploy than IRC or HTTP botnets, but they are more robust because they are not reliant on a centralized server. Instead, each bot acts as both a client and a server, producing and exchanging data with other botnet devices. The attacker is not required to set up a dedicated server for this type of system design. They do, however, maintain complete control over the malicious operations carried out by infected devices.
e.) Manual Botnets:
Some attackers may prefer manual botnets over completely autonomous ones when attacking another party because of the improved control they allow. These tools can be used to launch an attack from any compromised system if instructed by the attacker. Some botnets may even get malicious code upgrades from a distant repository. On the bright side, because they need human engagement, they may be easier to identify and trace.
f.) Backdoor Botnets:
A backdoor on a computer, network, or software application is any approach that allows both authorized and unauthorized users to circumvent typical security measures to get high-level user access (also known as root access). Once inside, hackers can steal personal and financial data, execute other software, and take control of associated devices. Backdoor botnets employ hacked PCs to infect additional devices and add them to a network of bots that the perpetrator may control.
g.) Spam-sending botnets:
These botnets are designed to transmit millions, if not billions, of unwanted spam messages to their targeted targets from infected devices throughout the world. Spambots collect email addresses from online forums, websites, guestbooks, and other places where the target has given their email address.
A bot-herder controls and commands these botnets for remote process execution. Botnets are frequently installed on hacked devices via a variety of remote code installation methods. To avoid being identified by investigators and law enforcement, the bot-herder will usually mask their identity using proxies like The Onion Router or Tor network, and shells to allow remote control of the bot.
The Impacts and Risks:
The proliferation of botnets presents significant risks to individuals, businesses, and even governments. Some notable impacts include:
- Financial Losses: Botnets enable cybercriminals to engage in various fraudulent activities, such as stealing sensitive financial information, conducting unauthorized transactions, or extorting money through ransomware attacks. The resulting financial losses can be substantial and have severe implications for victims.
- Disruption of Services: DDoS attacks orchestrated by botnets can cripple websites, online services, and even entire networks. This can result in significant financial losses for businesses, damage to their reputation, and inconvenience for users who rely on these services.
- Data Breaches and Privacy Violations: Botnets can be used to exfiltrate sensitive data, including personal information, intellectual property, or trade secrets. The compromised data can be sold on the black market or used for identity theft, blackmail, or corporate espionage.
- Exploitation of IoT Devices: With the growing adoption of IoT devices, botnets are increasingly targeting vulnerable smart devices such as cameras, thermostats, or home automation systems. Compromised IoT devices can be used as entry points to launch attacks or as tools for surveillance, compromising privacy and security.
Different Types of Bot Attacks:
- DDoS Attacks:
When botnets overwhelm a targeted application or server with requests, the application or server crashes. DDoS attacks at the network level include synchronization code or SYN floods on a TCP connection, user datagram protocol (UDP) floods, and DNS amplification. The goal is to exhaust the target's bandwidth, preventing legitimate requests from being completed. Application-layer DDoS assaults, in contrast to network-level attacks, use Slowloris attempts, HTTP floods, zero-day strikes, R-U-Dead-Yet (RUDY) attacks, and other tactics to cause vulnerabilities in an operating system, protocol, or application to fail. These attacks are common in retail, e-commerce, finance and insurance industries.
- Sniffing and Key Logging attacks:
Keylogger assaults are among the most common sorts of cyber dangers. It scans and logs keystrokes and can discern patterns to assist attackers in locating passwords fast. Keyloggers can penetrate through malware, USB sticks, and software and hardware flaws. Similarly, sniffing assists threat actors in unlawfully extracting information; however, instead of monitoring keystrokes, packet sniffers gather network data. Botnets installed on a computer may sniff and key log, obtaining large volumes of user data. These infiltrations are most common in finance, insurance, e-commerce and social media.
- Botnet Driven Phishing:
These infiltrations are more common in finance, retail, insurance and social-media industries. Botnets may be used to distribute malware via phishing emails. Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that is widely used to gain sensitive user information such as login passwords and credit card information. It occurs when an attacker impersonates a secure entity and dupes the victim into opening an email, instant message, or text message. The receiver is tricked into clicking on a malicious link, which results in malware installation, system freezing, ransomware attack, or the exposing of critical information. When botnets conduct phishing efforts, they become difficult to track.
- Large Scale-Spam attacks:
Botnets are responsible for most internet spam attacks, such as email spam, comment section spam, form spam, and so on. Spam assaults are regularly used to spread malware and try phishing, and there are botnets capable of sending out tens of billions of spam messages every day. Fraudulent online reviews are a common example of botnet-based spam assaults, in which a fraudster takes over user devices and submits spam online reviews in mass without utilizing the service or product. These attacks are common in retail, e-commerce, social-media and telecommunication industries.
- Data Breaching attacks:
Some botnets are deliberately designed to steal sensitive and critical information such as bank data, credit card information, and so on. Botnets may be created to particularly target high-value services and digital assets for this sort of assault. These attacks are most common in e-commerce, finance, insurance and social media industries.
The ZeuS botnet, for example, is designed to steal account information from a variety of e-commerce, banking, and social networking sites. A ZeuS botnet assault in 2007 is regarded as one of the most infamous attacks in history. It was originally designed to gather end-user financial information through spam or phishing emails. To infect the devices, the attacker utilized a Trojan horse program disseminated via a botnet.
- Mining attacks:
This has been a frequent type of cybercrime in recent years; the botnet is instructed to mine cryptocurrency for the attacker's monetary advantage. Botnets in such attacks employ device resources to mine cryptocurrencies without informing the user. While the user incurs mining fees, the coin is immediately transferred to the infiltrator. For example, Sysrv is a botnet that has been used to mine cryptocurrency and perform certain assaults, such as crypto-clipping attacks which may also steal cryptocurrency transactions. These infiltrations are most common in finance and cybercrime industries creating havoc and huge money loss.
- Brute Force assaults:
These infiltrations are most common in finance, retail, e-commerce, insurance and cybercrime industries. Brute force assaults are based on speculation yet involve little human effort. A botnet is used by the cybercriminal to continually assault a set of targeted devices and guess the user credentials. They are successful and get illegal access to the targeted system. This hit-and-trial strategy is a simple procedure with a high success rate.
Here at World Wide Technology (WWT), we guide our customers to follow these precautionary measures to keep their organizations safe.
- Update software systems on a regular basis: Botnets may target apps or software weaknesses, many of which should have received periodic security updates or fixes. Therefore, making it a habit to update the software and operating system on a regular basis is beneficial.
- Monitoring the network: One should always keep a watch on their network for any unusual activities. This will be far more successful if they have a better knowledge of normal traffic dynamics and how everything works regularly. If possible, network monitoring should be carried out around the clock, using analytics and data-collection systems capable of detecting anomalous activity such as botnet attacks.
- Examine unsuccessful login attempts: Account takeover (ATO) assaults are one of the most serious threats to internet companies. Botnets are frequently used to test many stolen usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to user accounts. Tracking the general average of unsuccessful login attempts may help create a baseline, allowing IT staff to set up warnings for any spikes in failed logins, which could indicate a botnet attack.
- Avoid P2P downloading: Luring the target is the most popular way of beginning a botnet assault. To avoid botnet attacks, avoid downloading attachments from untrustworthy or unknown sources. It is advisable to password-protect PDFs so that they do not serve as a conduit for a botnet assault.
- Two-factor Authentication: Using a strong password is a good way to reduce the possibility of a botnet attack. Two-factor authentication (2FA) helps keep botnet infections at bay, making devices safer. It guarantees that users validate downloads and email conversations over various routes, and it prevents the botnet from engaging in illicit actions without access to both sets of authentication credentials.
We've helped build a layer of security for organizations in various industries aligned with governance and standard requirement, which has resulted in fewer cyber events and the ability to adapt based on learned telemetry.
Here are a few industry-specific protective measures to consider when building a bot defense strategy.
Protection Measures in Retail:
- Web Application Firewalls (WAFs): Implementing WAFs to detect and block malicious bot traffic, protecting the integrity of online retail platforms.
- CAPTCHA and Behavioral Biometrics: Utilizing CAPTCHA challenges and behavioral biometrics to differentiate between human users and bots during critical transactions.
- Order Verification Systems: Employing mechanisms like email confirmations or phone-based verifications to prevent fraudulent purchases.
- User Agent Analysis: Analyzing user agent strings to identify bot impersonating legitimate user agents and differentiate between human and bot traffic.
- Data Analysis and Anomaly Detection: Utilizing data analysis techniques to detect abnormal purchasing patterns, identify potential bot-driven activities, and respond proactively.
Protection Measures in Telecommunication:
- Robust Authentication: Using robust authentication techniques to verify clients' identities and prevent illegal access.
- Network Traffic Analysis: Detecting and blocking unusual traffic patterns associated with bot attacks using deep packet inspection and traffic analysis techniques.
- Fraud Detection Systems: Using modern systems with machine learning algorithms to detect and mitigate fraudulent activity in real-time.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implementing 2FA methods to offer an extra layer of protection and prevent unwanted access to client accounts.
- Real-Time Analytics: Using real-time analytics to detect and respond to abnormalities that indicate bot activity, such as rapid increases in call volume or message traffic.
Protection Measures in Finance:
- Strong Authentication: Using strong authentication mechanisms to verify users' identities and prevent fraudulent transactions.
- Transaction Monitoring: The use of powerful algorithms to analyze transaction patterns and discover abnormalities related to bot-driven fraudulent operations.
- KYC (Know Your Customer) Compliance: Strict KYC processes are used to verify users' identities and avoid identity theft.
- Market Surveillance Instruments: The use of specialized instruments to monitor trade activity and detect abnormal trends or manipulative trading techniques.
Protection Measures in Social Media:
- Automated Account Verification: Implementing severe verification mechanisms to assure user account legitimacy.
- Machine Learning Algorithms: Using algorithms to discover trends in bot activity and identify questionable actions.
- Content Moderation: Detecting and removing bot-generated spam or misinformation using automated methods and human moderators.
- User Reporting: Encouraging people to report questionable accounts or actions so that bots may be dealt with quickly.
Protection Measures in E-commerce:
- Strong Authentication Mechanisms: Using multi-factor authentication and secure login procedures to prevent illegal access.
- Order Verification Systems: Using verification procedures to avoid fraudulent purchases, such as email confirmations or phone-based verifications.
- Bot Monitoring Tools: Using tools to detect and prevent suspicious behaviors and trends related to bot-driven purchases.
- Artificial Intelligence-Powered Fraud Detection: Using AI algorithms to examine purchasing trends, find abnormalities, and detect probable fraudulent actions.
Protection Measures in Insurance:
- Robust Identity Verification: Implementing strict identity verification processes to assure policyholder validity and avoid identity theft efforts.
- Artificial Intelligence-Powered Fraud Detection: Using AI algorithms to evaluate claims data, discover suspicious trends, and identify probable fraudulent claims.
- Data Encryption and Secure Storage: To avoid unwanted access and data breaches, sensitive customer data is encrypted and stored in secure databases.
- Ongoing Monitoring: Constantly monitoring user activity, policy information, and claims data to discover and respond to suspected bot-driven fraud as soon as possible.
How to protect your organization?
In today's digital world, bot assaults have become a common and persistent menace and may be disastrous for both corporations and individuals. Organizations, on the other hand, have acknowledged the gravity of the problem and have stepped up to develop effective bot security solutions.
Several organizations like F5, Radware, Akamai, Cloudflare, Imperva, and many more have emerged as bot protection leaders, providing unique technology and complete solutions to resist bot assaults. To identify and limit the existence of dangerous bots, these solutions use complex algorithms, machine learning, and behavioral analysis approaches.
World Wide Technology can help in choosing and implementing the best solution based on the requirement.
Ready to learn more?
Explore our articles that address the integrated solutions to implement a secure bot protected layer that is constantly learning and adapting to protect organizations from innovative bots.