According to a report published yesterday by information security firm, Imperva, humans were responsible for the majority of all Internet traffic for the first time in over 3 years.

As detailed in a report entitled "Humans Take Back the Web," researchers crunching data from over 19-billion human and bot visits to 35,000 websites from July to October of this year found that 51.5 percent of the traffic came from humans, up from just 38.5% in 2013. (For those unfamiliar with the term, "bots" are software applications that perform automated tasks, usually on the Internet.)

Most of the drop in bot traffic, however, came from a reduction in the amount of so-called "good bot" traffic - which fell from 31% of all traffic in 2013 to just 19.5%. Good bots are used by organizations to assist with various tasks such as automated data collection, checking that their content is not being re-distributed without attribution and licensing, and to perform other legitimate activities with real business purposes - so the recent drop in "good bot" traffic does not indicate any trend toward improved cybersecurity. The amount of "bad bot" traffic - that is, Internet traffic generated by programs used for malicious purposes such as spam campaigns, stealing data, launching denial of service attacks, executing vulnerability scans as the first step in a hacker attack, or other nefarious activities - remained constant at around 30% of all Internet traffic.

The drop in good bot traffic, however, was not uniform across websites. The study found that "good bot" activity directed toward websites with under 10,000 visits a day has actually increased, but dropped sharply vis-à-vis more popular sites.

These findings in this report are both interesting and important for small businesses and individuals for several reasons:

1.    It would seem that legitimate businesses using "good bots" may collectively be falling behind hackers who utilize "bad bots" - a good reminder of the importance of making sure your website and organization are cyber secure. Here are 13 Tips to Achieve Great Cybersecurity Without Spending a Fortune.

2.      While humans are, by definition, attracted to more popular sites, bots are not; the number of visits a site gets is based on various technical factors, not its Alexa rating or level of popularity among people. This means that small businesses and people operating personal websites should expect their sites to be visited by bots checking for plagiarism, scanning for vulnerabilities by whitehat hackers, etc.

3.      The fact that 30% of Internet traffic is still being generated by "bat bots" should raise concern that better action needs to be taken to combat bots. Several years ago, Google helped cut the number of spam-related bots by punishing in search results sites involved in the spam process, leading to many providers more actively combating spammers. Technology companies - perhaps assisted by the government - might be able to find ways to achieve similar results vis-à-vis today's "bad bots." Because bots often exploit vulnerabilities, for example, better industry standards for securing computers and other devices might help.

In the meantime, make sure you are secure. Here are 13 tips to help you.

Please feel free to discuss this article with me on Twitter. I am at @JosephSteinberg.

 

Published on: Dec 10, 2015
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