Internet bots, web bots, or simply bots are software applications that are used to perform automated tasks over the internet. Their applications vary from gathering information for search engines to automated chating systems. They are usually used to perform tasks that are simple and repetitive, much faster than a person could. These bots are mainly used in web crawling, in which automated scripts are used to fetch, analyze, and file everything that is fetched from web servers. Bots consist of more than half of the entire web traffic.
It is up to the web servers to determine whether to block or allow bots. Their approach towards this also varies. Most servers have a robots.txt file which contains the rules specifying bot behavior on that server. Any bot that does not follow the rules could be denied access to, or removed from, the website. If the posted text file has no associated program/software/app, then adhering to the rules is entirely up to the bot. Currently, there are no ways to enforce the rules or to make a bot’s creator or implementer read or acknowledge the robots.txt file. Some bots are fine for example search engine spiders Bots can also be used to launch malicious attacks, for example on political campaigns, or defaming campaigns.
IM and IRC
Some bots want to communicate with end-users of Internet-based services, via Instant Messaging (IM), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or through other web interfaces like Facebook Bots and Twitter Bots. These chatbots allow people to ask questions in plain English and then formulate a response. Such bots can often handle repetitive queries about the weather, postal code information, sports scores, currency or other unit conversions, etc. Others are used for assisting the users in completing tasks.
Bots are very often used on social media. IRC bots are also used in a conversation channel, commenting or noting down phrases uttered by the participants (based on stored patterns).
Social bots can interact with humans and to answer their queries without getting tired. They can be very human, but are accounts that are automated and controlled by a machine.
Social media bots are algorithms or pieces of software that use artificial intelligence to automate tasks and make conversations with humans, to assist them. They can help businesses in building stronger relationships with customers by delivering targeted and precise content as well as anticipating user reactions.
Even the google search bar is a social bot. It uses the input from the user and artificial intelligence to provide the best possible or most appropriate suggestion for the user. Social media also uses a large number of such bots to monitor user activity, analyze them, and suggest more possible actions or materials that a particular user may find interesting.
Reports of political interference in elections are getting more common, 2016 US and 2017 UK general elections have set the notion of bots being more prevalent because of the ethics that is challenged between the bot’s design and also the bot’s designer. The bots always suggest what is in the users best interest According to Emilio Ferrara, a computer scientist from the University of Southern California reporting on Communications of the ACM, the dearth of resources available to implement fact-checking and information verification results in large volumes of false reports and claims made about these bots on social media platforms. In the case of Twitter, most of these bots are programmed with searching filter abilities that concentrate on keywords and phrases supporting political agendas and then retweet them. While the attention of bots is programmed to spread unsubstantiated information throughout the social media platforms, it is a challenge that programmers face in the wake of a hostile political climate. The Bot Effect is what Ferrera reports as the socialization of bots and human users making vulnerability to the leaking of personal data and polarizing influences outside the ethics of the bot’s code. This is confirmed by Guillory Kramer in his study, wherever he observes the behavior of emotionally volatile users and also the impact the bots have on the users, altering the perception of reality.
Internet bots are also used for a lot of commercial purposes. Bots are being increasingly used as an automated trading function. Recently auction website eBay has taken legal action to suppress a third-party company from using bots to crawl their site looking for good deals; this backfired on eBay and attracted the attention of more bots. The United Kingdom-based bet exchange Betfair saw such an increase in the amount of traffic coming from bots that it had to launch a WebService API aimed directly at bot programmers, through that it will actively manage bot interactions.
Bot farms are also known to be used in online app stores, like the Apple App Store and Google Play, to manipulate ratings /reviews.
Bots are also employed in e-commerce websites to improve customer ratings by providing false positive reviews. This can lead to actual customers being fooled into buying low-quality goods.
Companies also use internet bots to improve online engagement and streamline communications. Companies also use bots to cut down on cost, bots can effectively engage with customers in solving repetitive queries or complaints. They are faster and cheaper than their human counterparts, companies always develop new ways to be efficient. These Chatbots are used to give answers to customer questions. For example, Domino’s (fast food chain) has developed a Chatbot that can take orders via Facebook Messenger. Chatbots enable companies to allocate their employees’ time to more important things.
One main malicious use of bots is the coordination and operation of an automated attack on networked computers, such as a denial-of-service attack by a botnet. Further Internet bots or web bots can also be used to commit click frauds and have made recent appearances around MMORPG games, like computer game bots. Nowadays this kind of bots is getting widely used in video games such as PUBG. PUBG mobile bots also belong to the family of malicious bots. Another category of such bots are Spambots, these are internet bots that attempt to spam large amounts of content on the Internet, usually manipulating by providing false information or adding advertising links. More than 94.2% of websites have experienced a bot attack at least once.
Malicious bots are of the following types
- Spambots that fetch email addresses from contact or guestbook pages
- Downloaded programs that use up bandwidth by downloading entire websites
- Website scrapers that use the content of websites with no permission on automatically generated threshold pages
- Registration bots that sign up that specific email address to various other services to have the confirmation messages flood the email inbox to distract from important messages like one that indicates a security breach.
- Viruses and worms
- DDoS attacks
- Botnets, zombie computers, etc.
- Spambots that redirect people onto a malicious website, usually found in comment sections or forums of assorted websites.
Viewbots that creates fake views
Bots that are used to buy up good seats for concerts, particularly by ticket brokers in order to resell the tickets. Against entertainment event-ticketing sites, these bots are employed by ticket brokers to unrightfully get the best seats for themselves while depriving the general public of their chance to procure the good seats. These bots run through the purchase process and procure better seats by pulling as many seats back as it can.
Bots are often used in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games too. They farm for resources that might otherwise take vital time or effort to be obtained; this is a major concern for most online in-game economies.
Bots are also used to increase the views on YouTube videos.
Bots are used to increase traffic counts on analytics reporting to falsely claim huge traffic thereby extracting more money from advertisers. A study by Comscore found that over half of ads shown across thousands of campaigns between May 2012 and February 2013 were served to non-human users.
In 2012, journalist Percy von Lipinski reported that he found millions of bots or botted or pinged views at CNN’s iReport page. CNN iReport then quietly removed millions of views from the account of a so-called superstar iReporter Chris Morrow. It is not known if the ad charges collected by CNN from the fake views were ever returned to the advertisers.
Bots are also used on internet forums to automatically post derogatory or nonsensical posts to disrupt the forum and agitate users.
The most widely used anti-bot technique is the use of a CAPTCHA, which is a form of Turing test used to differentiate between a human user and a less-sophisticated AI-powered bot, through the usage of a graphically-encoded human-readable text. Recaptcha and commercial companies such as Minteye, Solve Media, and NuCaptcha are prominent providers of captchas. Captchas are not foolproof in preventing bots, as they can often be circumvented by computer character recognition, security holes, etc. Bot designers also go as far as outsourcing captcha solving to cheap laborers.
The interaction between humans and social robots is extremely common in everyday life, like in schools, workplaces, video games, and social media. There are several advantages to using bots. Bots are forever available, thus it provides quick and convenient customer service. Bots will be available for multiple purposes, such as chatting/answering queries and advertising. Bots conjointly cut back labor prices, that successively produces an additional profit for the corporate. Chatbots are used daily. Google Assistant and Siri are considered as forms of chatbots. Google Assistant and Siri enable Individuals to raise questions and get a response using an AI system. These technological advances are completely benefiting people’s daily lives.
Companies and customers will benefit from internet bots. Internet bots are permitting customers to get in touch with companies without having to communicate with a person. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has created a chatbot that enables customers to receive boarding passes, check-in reminders, and all other information that is required for a flight. Customer engagement has grown since companies have developed chatbots that will profit customers.
An additional niche use case for internet bots is automatically buying sneakers online. There are a variety of different bots for purchasing sneakers, that works on many completely different sneaker websites. Often, an individual will use a bot to either get a rare/limited shoe or to get multiple pairs of shoes and resell them to make a rather massive profit.
Around the world, there are two main issues with bots: clarity and face-to-face support. The cultural background of human beings affects the way they communicate with social bots. Many of us believe that bots are vastly less intelligent than humans and so they are disgraceful of our respect. Min-Sun Kim projected five issues or problems which will arise while communicating with a social robot, and they are avoiding the damage to peoples’ feelings, minimizing impositions, disapproval from others, clarity issues, and how efficient their messages may come across. Social robots also take away from the real creations of human relationships.
Internet Bots are beginning to make their presence felt and not just in the social media circles. It would appear that they are most prone to abuse in those circles as people can easily make bot accounts for trolling purposes. ie, the development of bots cannot be pushed aside. It is just a matter of time before they occupy all things to do with the internet.
For more information on the topic go to Innovature’s Web Development page.