Three ways to prevent bot fraud

Image of small robots connected to represent a botnet
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Bots (programs built to do automated tasks) are now the most active presence on the internet, with their traffic surpassing that of humans according to an annual trends report delivered at the Code Conference in 2017.

Whilst these bots drive the technological change which improves customer experience - be it through internet shopping or digital assistants - they also have access to internet users' identity information. Consequently, it is often this same technology which enables fraud. The numbers are frightening, with $6.5 billion dollars lost to fraud in digital advertising 2017, according to the Bot Baseline Report.

Defending against bot fraud can be a never-ending task. Bots are readily available, simple to manipulate and easy to deploy. They are able to pick through business applications looking for any opportunity to profit.

Whilst it is impossible to achieve complete invulnerability, through implementing a holistic defence strategy that makes your applications a more challenging target, cyber criminals are much more likely to focus their attentions elsewhere. With that in mind, here are three ways to increase your chances of bot fraud prevention.

1) Application protection

The most complete defence an organisation can create is with a security device or service which is capable of harbouring full-proxy capabilities, such as a web application firewall (WAF). A WAF protects applications by applying a set of rules covering common cyber attacks, blocking malicious scripts and injections. To achieve this it acts as a buffer between the internet and your applications, helping to apply the right protections where they are most needed.

Not only does a WAF protect applications from vulnerable code and software, but it can also protect against bot-driven attacks by distinguishing between human and machine users by focusing on the attack tool, rather than the attack vector.

The comprehensive capabilities of WAF go a long stretch to protecting against bot fraud, with the placing of a WAF strategy at the central point of your organisation's network allowing other anti-fraud defences to be deployed. To ensure these advantages are fully capitalised however, the right conditions are needed within the organisation.

2) Create an awareness programme

Human interaction with software is only increasing, but many employees are not confident when dealing with bots. Bots are also becoming increasingly sophisticated which makes them difficult to identify even for employees who are familiar with the signs to look out for. As a result of employee inadequacies, holes can appear in the organisation's defence strategy which must be addressed if a WAF is to work effectively.

Implementing a continuous security and awareness program across the entire organisation can enable employees to keep up-to-date with bots. Employees will become aware of the threats they can cause and become versed in methods of protection, both for themselves as individuals and for the wider organisation.

3) Due diligence

Bots are constantly evolving to meet the demands of their users, and so it is critical that organisations also remain on their toes. In addition to the employee awareness programme that should be refreshed regularly, security patches particularly must be kept up-to-date, with unpatched networks a bullseye for malicious bots.

Organisations must also look internally to be able to combat malicious bots. By identifying where they are most vulnerable, they can develop an integrated security strategy across all departments. To help examine themselves, organisations can seek the help of a software partner who can offer a holistic solution to bot fraud, enabling application protection, tightening up network security, setting access controls, providing threat intelligence and endpoint inspection tools. This combination hands back control to the organisation, allowing them to shut down fraudulent activity before it has a serious impact on the business.