As more people join the digital age by accessing the Internet on a regular basis, the number of non-human Internet users is also growing at an exceptional rate. A new study has found that Internet traffic generated by bots instead of humans is up 21 percent compared with last year.
This increase has placed the total share of non-human traffic at 61 percent, and although a significant proportion of those bots were search engines, 24 percent of them were malicious bots used for hacking and data collection. Luckily, the good kind of bots is growing, whereas malicious bots are no longer as popular as they were in 2011 or 2012.
To the average Internet user, it does not really matter if the Internet sees the majority of its traffic from bots. However, this sort of information is crucial to Web sites and companies that are trying to accurately monitor how much traffic they receive. Some analytics programs do not count bot visits within their statistics but some of them do, resulting in a massive difference in the amount of traffic a Web site believes it is receiving.
Incapsula, the research firm behind the study, was able to monitor 1.45 billion bot visits over a period of 90 days, and while this may not provide a completely accurate look at how much Internet traffic comes from bots, the information is still useful.
The massive increase in bot use can largely be attributed to search engine optimization tools that are becoming more popular as businesses attempt to automate their SEO research. "For instance, we see newly established SEO-oriented services that crawl a site at a rate of 30-50 daily visits or more," said Incapsula in a recent blog post.
As useful as some bots may be, there is a dark side to the bot industry in which hacking tools, spammers, and general criminals thrive. Out of all the bad bot visits recorded by Incapsula, the only noticeable increase came in the form of impersonators, which saw an 8 percent increase in their share of Internet traffic.
If the firm is correct, this increase in the number of impersonators may be one of the reasons that actual cyberattacks are becoming so common, especially with high-priority victims. Not only are the impersonator bots allowing criminals to more easily carry out attacks, but because they have only recently replaced traditional forms of malicious bots, it is harder to defend against them.
Incapsula says that these impersonator bots operate by pretending to be from a search engine or other legitimate service. In doing so, they can get past security measures, which has made them popular in denial-of-service attacks that can cripple a Web site with too many visits. Overall, most Web sites have remained unaffected by the growth of impersonator bots but for sites that have encountered them, they have a difficult time fighting back.