An ecommerce firm recently reached out to cybersecurity #startup InfiSecure, suspecting competitors were scraping the site. It emerged that over 80 percent of the site traffic was from bots. Nearly half of them were scraping product prices, catalogs, and data on users and vendors.
As a result, the site’s Google Analytics metrics made no sense, the servers were overloaded, and worst of all, the prices were not competitive because rivals had instant access to them, Sandeep Singh, co-founder of InfiSecure, says.
Bots constitute more than half of global internet traffic.
Once the InfiSecure software started blocking the scrapers, server usage costs reduced and sales increased because the pricing strategies began to kick in. The site also had the right user metrics for effective marketing.
This is far from an isolated case. Data theft, hacking attempts, web scraping, ticketing fraud, click fraud, account hijacking, fake users and actions, form spam, and comment spam – there’s a whole lot of malicious activity afoot on the net. “The US Congress has been battling ticketing fraud for some time now, but to no avail,” points out Sandeep. “Just the ticketing fraud industry in itself is a multi-billion dollar fraud that we are looking at. Let alone the frauds on ecommerce websites.”
The rise of bots
Behind many of the scraping and other attacks are bots. These days, they are everywhere on the net – even on messaging apps. The friendly ones that chat with us can be useful. But the malicious ones scrape valuable data from our sites, skew our metrics, take a toll on servers, or even launch automated attacks to make them crash.
SaaS (software-as-a-service) startup InfiSecure has a shield against these bad bots. It analyzes website traffic in real time and sorts out the legitimate users from crawlers, scrapers, and other creepy visitors. Its analytics software can check website traffic patterns to detect the presence of bots; then it can be plugged in to identify and block the bad bots.
Today, this cloud-based blocker of bad bots announced US$600,000 in seed funding from IDG Ventures and Axilor Ventures. “The demand of cybersecurity solutions is on the rise from online businesses because of growing bot traffic,” says Ganapathy Venugopal, co-founder and CEO of Axilor.
The eight-month-old startup’s co-founders, Sandeep Singh and Abhilash Pandey, both worked earlier at TCS and Microsoft. “Bots constitute more than half of global internet traffic. With evolving technologies, bot frauds have reached new heights, negatively impacting every online business,” says Abhilash, an IIM Calcutta alumnus.
Sandeep, who marketed the Azure cloud for Microsoft, also shares with Tech in Asia the emerging danger of so-called “elite bots.” These use artificial intelligence to take fraudulent activities to a new level. “A clear example of such bots in action is on bitcoin faucet websites or on global digital ad networks, where the bots perfectly mimic human behavior and commit fraud,” says Sandeep. (Bitcoin faucets are websites and apps that offer rewards in exchange for completing tasks.)
AI-powered scrapers and mimickers are not yet so common because it’s an emerging technology, and they’re hard to develop. But along with constructive uses of artificial intelligence, it’s clear that hackers, spammers, and scrapers will also find uses for AI-powered bots.