What is a Bot and How Does It Work?

What is a Bot

Multiple bots form a large component of internet traffic and activity. Robots can do tasks automatically, like helping customers and organizing websites. However, some bots can be dangerous and might infect your computer with harmful software.

What is a Bot?

A bot (short for robot) is a computer program or algorithm that automatically performs routine work. Some might be web indexing, scrapping, bulk messaging, and information seeking.

Bots work faster than people when they repeatedly do the same thing. That’s why they team up with different software and websites. It indicates that bots can be integrated into daily functions, improving efficiency with reduced redundancy. But people can also use bots for bad things, like when hackers use them to spread harmful software, usually by doing DDoS and botnet attacks.

How Do Bots Work?

How Do Bots Work

Bots follow instructions to do their jobs. They start operating upon a particular reason, command, or sign instructing the bot to act. It may affect anything from keywords to messages directed to social media forums.

Different types of bots have different designs. The three main ways that describe what type of bot it is are:

  • Automation enables you to do repetitive tasks without needing to talk to anyone.
  • They refer to computer vision that attempts to replicate human sight digitally.
  • The machine learns to do this based on patterns and guesses the most likely human-like response.

People can use bots for good or bad purposes. Good bots can contribute towards improving users’ experiences and automating repetitive tasks. Malicious bots designed by hackers can spread malware, acquire private data, or infect an affected PC with a botnet.

Types of Good Bots

Different types of bot developers create various bots with distinct purposes, ranging from automated support to complex transactions. There are other typical varieties of good bots, which we will discuss in more detail.

1. Web Crawlers and Spiders

These bots, called search engine bots, crawl the web, read content, follow links, and index websites on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Ultimately, a bot gathers the data for the search engines that they later present as relevant search results depending on what the user is looking for.

2. Chatbots

Developers create chatbots to talk to people without needing anyone to watch. Basic chatbots follow specific rules, while advanced ones learn using machine learning. Chatbots simulate human conversations through voice or text messages for banks, online retailers, and many websites to speed up customer support.

3. Monitoring Bots

Bots watch everything people do on a website or server. They ensure everything runs smoothly and inform people of any problems. Businesses often use bots to track how much stock they have, the prices, and what’s on their websites. Bots also watch what’s happening on social media.

Personal Assistant Bots

Augmented intelligence in personal assistant bots enables users to collect information faster, do some tasks in less time, and automate some jobs. It combines operating methods like NLP (Natural Language Processing), machine learning, and rules. Examples of such assistants include the Alexa bots and Siri.

4. Marketing Bots

There are marketing bots that multiple marketing companies use for tracking ads, bot traffic, reading customer reviews, monitoring trending keywords, and so forth. The bots enable businesses to handle massive pieces of data without requiring more human labor and monotonous activities.

5. Aggregator Bots

They create aggregator bots that gather information from different sources for users. These bots usually get data from many sites, put it on the platform’s news feed, or send it to users. For instance, most media houses allow one to subscribe to their newsletter and receive a cupful of selected articles daily.

6. Shopping Bots

Shopping bots improve the customer experience by crawling the internet looking for the required items. They help individuals compare prices, make the best deals, compile reviews and price histories of products, and automate purchases. Shopping bots also have advantages, like assisting consumers in saving time and money. It also allows them to make much better buying choices.

Transaction Bots

There are transaction bots that transact on behalf of users. They provide for smooth exchange functions by increasing speed, efficiency, and user-friendliness. Businesses utilize transaction bots to remove the chance of human errors and to carry out financial operations effectively.

Types of Malicious Bots

Both users and hackers appreciate automation and process optimization equally. The threat actors turned positive bot activity into malicious, system-cripple, and internet user-harming actions. Reviewing the most common malicious bots flooding the internet will be necessary.

1. Spam Bots

Spam bots make bogus user accounts, collect contact details, and spread spam online. They may send spam emails or post in different forums/online portals/blogs or social media networks. Spam bots can do anything from advertising and selling products to spreading malware.

2. Web Scraping Bots

The web scraper bot downloads everything from a specific website that someone might use on another site. It goes against copyright law. Furthermore, it harms the website and may make it hard to index on Google.

3. Credential Stuffing Bots

The credential-stuffing bots use leaked passwords to check the matches for the top services such as Facebook, Spotify, or Amazon. Therefore, they create a platform to hijack more accounts before selling them online.

4. DDoS Bots

Infecting many devices with malware may transform them into zombies for DDoS attacks. The DDoS bots contaminate other machines and turn them into a botnet, a mass of similar bots. The greater the number of bots a hacker has, the higher the intensity of the attack becomes.

5. Inventory Hoarding Bots

Hoarding bots for inventory typically grab or store specific products as soon as they’re released. However, these bots are more beneficial since they can conduct transactions at a speed that no human can match. Hoarding bots can use low inventory quantities for malicious entities to sell items bought at high prices.

6. File-sharing Bots

When used with bad intentions, file-sharing bots could be used to illegally distribute files all over the internet. Such files comprise copyrighted content or personal or organizational confidential information. Some malicious bots pass files with viruses like worms, trojans, and ransomware.

7. Vulnerability Scanners

Hackers use vulnerability scanners to locate various network and system vulnerabilities for automatic exploitation. Therefore, they perform vulnerability scans in the attack planning stage since they help identify potential points of entry to the network. In this case, cybercriminals try to penetrate the network to spread malware, gain access, or steal sensitive information.

Examples of Bots

Companies have enabled the use of bots in various industries. Resulting in a smooth user experience and the automation of repetitive actions. Below is a list of well-known services you may be familiar with that use bots:

  • Bots help index websites and make them available to the user through Google Search.
  • Chatbot assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and others may easily access resources and control connected devices.
  • Bots are used in instant messaging applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack to answer questions and provide updates.
  • Amazon incorporates chatbots to provide answers to customers, in addition to designing recommendation algorithms based on customer preference.
  • They are very useful as they help Spotify suggest new music that matches your tastes perfectly.

Advantages of Bots

Bots present multiple benefits for several industries and are more efficient in terms of time and money savings. Here are the top benefits of bots:

  • Round-the-clock availability: Bots do not have breaks and can attend to tasks that need attention at a stretch.
  • Bots can complete tasks with fewer errors compared to what humans usually make. It is important, especially when using data or calculations.
  • Scalability: It can manage high-traffic periods by handling many requests simultaneously.
  • Task automation: Bots let people focus on harder tasks and save time from doing repetitive work.
  • Task automation: Better user experience.

Disadvantages of Bots

While bots can facilitate things for many industries, they are not full of cons. Below are some of the most notable ones:

  • Limited comprehension: However, bots are less advanced than humans and need help understanding human communication.
  • Spreading misinformation: Bots are tools different organizations can use to spread false information or influence public opinion.
  • Additional maintenance: Bots can do 24-hour tasks, but they also require frequent updating as the technology develops.
  • Compliance issues: The bots used for medical or legal services are strictly regulated. Presenting such may take a lot of work.
  • Spreading malware: Threat actors are not afraid of using bots as malware delivery vehicles when conducting sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Identifying Malicious Bots on Your Computer

These bots may steal your data, install malware on your device and infect it with it, or even add to a botnet. If you’re participating in any of the signs mentioned below, there’s a chance that you have a disliked guest in your system:

  • Without warning, your computer turns very slow or crashes.
  • Then, suspicious ads and pop-ups just emerge without any notice.
  • Your default home page changes.
  • Unknown toolbars and extensions appear in your browser.
  • The shutdown of your computer is taking longer than normal.
  • It is not successful when updating because its operating system fails.
  • You receive spam, and the other party puts suspicious links in your social media profiles.
  • Your computer fan keeps running more than needed when you’re not using it.
  • Your memory seems to lose space for nothing clear.

When Your Computer is Bot-Infested

Therefore, you should move quickly, as this may be one of the bots that have infested your computer. It is an essential point in time because cybercriminals have already started doing their dirty job. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Unplug your computer from the internet to prevent hackers from executing commands or getting any of your sensitive details.
  2. Make a copy of all important data. But be aware that this data might contain harmful software, so remove any of those before using them.
  3. Boot your computer in safe mode and identify all the apps on your device. End those you are unfamiliar with, and delete them and all the temporary files stored on your device.
  4. Carry out a full system security scan on your device and eliminate the detected threats as per the prompt.
  5. Reinstall your browser.

Protecting Your Computer Against Bots

However, use simple yet effective security tools. Boost your cyber awareness to protect your devices from the most harmful malicious bots. Here are some of the most effective actions to protect your computer from bots:

  • Use strong passwords: A good password should combine upper- and lower-case letters with special characters and numbers. A couple of different accounts should have different passwords.
  • Update your software on time: When you delay updates, you make the computer vulnerable to malicious attacks. Hackers can use known vulnerabilities from years ago to compromise the computer’s security and inject malware.
  • Be careful with links and ads: Always check if a link is safe before­ clicking. Even a single wrong click could give hacke­rs control over your computer.
  • Use a VPN: A VPN protects your IP address and codes your internal data using advanced encryption. It helps ke­ep your online actions safe. Trusted VPN services offer more­ methods to secure your internal use.
Bryan Ruiz is a blogger, writer, and SEO expert who maintains and regularly updates blogs. Bryan combines his passion for a particular subject with writing skills and content marketing strategies to create and maintain successful blogs.


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