Spot Bad Bots

How can you spot bad bots?

Spot Bad Bots

How can you spot bad bots?

Users have complained that the service is unusually slow. You’ve spotted some strange spikes in your server load, and noticed some strange entries in the web logs. Is it a bot or human?

If you’re trying to figure out this manually by using weblogs and looking up individual IP addresses and user agents, then you need to look at automating this process with some tools.

This guide will explain the importance of automating bot traffic detection and offer insights and strategies that you can use to protect your digital assets. 

What is Bot Traffic?

Bot traffic refers to web traffic generated by automated software applications, also known as bots or web crawlers. While some bots are helpful and legitimate, like those used for search engine indexing, others can be harmful to your website. To protect your online assets and maintain a positive user experience, it's essential to be able to tell the difference between these different types of bot traffic.

Types of Bot Traffic

Good Bots

Good bots benefit your website. Some examples of these are:

  • Search Engine Crawlers: These bots (e.g., Googlebot, Bingbot) index your web pages, making your content more discoverable to search engine users.
  • Site Monitoring Bots: Services like uptime monitors and security scanners use bots to ensure your website's availability and security. 
  • Data Aggregators: Some bots gather data for research, analysis, or statistics, helping improve user experience and data collection.

Bad Bots

On the flip side, bad bots can harm your website. Some examples of these include:

  • GenAI Bots: These news bots combine GenAI tools to enhance existing attacks types, for example, using voice mail and social media to manipulate users into giving up personal information, such as passwords or logins, or use services like Chat-GPT combined with click farms to bulk insert customised content.
  • Scraper Bots: These scraper bots can steal your content, harm your SEO and plagiarize your work. For example, a form of scraper bots are price scrapers. If your business falls victim to price scraper bots, it means another company, a competitor to your business, has targeted your site with bots in order to extract pricing information, which they can then use to their advantage. This can have detrimental effects, drawing loyal customers away from your business. 
  • Spam Bots: Bots that flood your website with spam, for example relentless comments. This can degrade the user experience. They can be used for malicious attacks such as phishing scams, spreading malware, or promoting spam products and services. 
  • DDoS Bots: These bots can launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, overwhelming your server with internet traffic and making your website inaccessible.

The Importance of Bot Traffic Detection

Detecting bot traffic is crucial for several reasons:

  • Protecting Website Security: Identifying and blocking malicious bots helps protect your site from cyberattacks and data breaches.
  • Enhancing User Experience: Reducing spam and irrelevant traffic ensures a better experience for your genuine users.
  • Improving SEO: Preventing scraper bots from stealing your content helps maintain your search engine rankings and traffic quality.
  • Optimizing Resources: Effective bot traffic management helps optimize your server resources and reduce bandwidth consumption.

However, detecting these bots is hard, and as you can see below, most of the common methods of detecting bots are easily bypassed by sophisticated bots using GenAI or incorporating CAPTCHA  farms.

  • User-Agent Analysis: Examine the user-agent strings of incoming requests. Bots often have identifiable user-agent patterns, making it easier to distinguish them from real users. However, user agents are constantly changing and this requires updating on a consistent basis
  • IP Whitelisting and Blacklisting: Maintain a list of trusted and untrusted IP addresses. Block known malicious IPs and whitelist reputable ones to control traffic access. Many of the bot proxy networks boast of using 20 million plus proxies. This makes managing IPs by reputation very difficult if not impossible.
  • CAPTCHA and Human Verification: Implement CAPTCHA challenges and human verification methods on sensitive pages on your site,  to differentiate between humans and bots. However, human Captcha farms and GenAI bypasses CAPTCHA routinely.
  • Rate Limiting: Apply rate limits to requests from a single IP address to prevent bots from overwhelming your server. However, this ignores the underlying bot problem and simply degrades the service for your legitimate users.

Advanced Bot Traffic Detection Strategies:

As you can see what is needed is an automated way of detecting bots before they hit your endpoints. 

Machine Learning and AI: Use machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to adapt to evolving bot patterns and improve accuracy in detection.

  • Behavioral Analysis: Study user behavior patterns like browsing speed, mouse movements, and interaction frequency to identify suspicious activity effectively. This requires a lot of edge processing.

Bot Honey Traps: Create hidden links or pages that only bots will access. For example just hide a link on another page, that only a bot will discover. When a bot accesses these traps, you can flag and block it.


Bot traffic detection plays an integral role in maintaining the integrity and security of your online business. By applying the techniques and strategies in this guide, you can effectively identify and mitigate the impact of both good and bad bot traffic. Safeguarding your digital assets and improving the user experience are essential in the ever-changing online landscape.

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