Good Bots, Bad Bots: Changing the Way We Approach Cybersecurity?

Sue Marquette Poremba
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5 Steps for Proactive Cyber Risk Management

Ashley Madison is back in the news. The last time we talked about the infamous website, it was about a major data breach that seemed to focus more on blackmail and ruining marriages than the usual PII concerns. Today the news is about how Ashley Madison scammed their paying customers into thinking they were chatting with real women when, in fact, they were chatting with fembots.

The timing of this news comes just as Imperva released its annual Bot Traffic Report. Let’s face it – bots are ubiquitous in cyberspace. Like them or not, you can expect to keep coming across them. A lot of them are good bots, which, as Imperva reported, are there simply to gather information. But on the flip side, as Imperva’s report pointed out:

Meanwhile, bad bots remain a constant threat because their prime directive is to prey on big and successful targets. In other words, as a website becomes more popular, so does the incentive to attack it.

But the research found that there is a shift happening. Humans, the report said, are taking back the Web and are responsible for the bulk of traffic on the Internet. However, it seems like humans are replacing good bots because bad bot traffic has been static, at about 30 percent of all Web traffic. In an email comment, Meg Bear, senior vice president, general manager Cloud Services at Imperva, discussed use of bots:

While we know that artificial intelligence and machine learning are adding positive value to companies’ security detection, the combination of bots and artificial intelligence creates a new chapter in the evolving digital story. With almost 50 percent of all online traffic made up of bots, and bots becoming increasingly complex in how they are used, we can expect to see more creative uses – both good and nefarious – moving forward.

Will one of those creative uses be toward improving cybersecurity? We know that bad bots can cause a lot of damage, but a Radware study from earlier this year sees good bots leading the cybersecurity charge, replacing the human element. As Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware, told IT Pro Portal:

As defenses continue to succumb to an endless flood of sophisticated, automated attacks and an infinite number of new attack techniques, the idea of humans having the ability to deploy detection technologies and choreograph responses in real-time will disappear. We are approaching the fall of human cyber defenses and the rise of cyber botted-defense.

Let the battle of the bots begin. Here’s hoping the good guys win.

Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba.


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