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27.7  percent of Internet traffic in 2021 was made up of ‘bad bot’ activity and related account takeover and online fraud risks increased, according to the latest threat research from Imperva.

Thee 2022 Imperva Bad Bot Report, the ninth annual in-depth analysis of bot traffic across the internet by Imperva Threat Research. Bad bots, software applications that run automated tasks with malicious intent, accounted for a record-setting 27.7 percent of all global website traffic in 2021, up from 25.6 percent in 2020. The three most common bot attacks were account takeover (ATO), content or price scraping, and scalping to obtain limited-availability items. 

Bad bots are often the first indicator of online fraud and represent a risk to digital businesses, as well as their customers. In 2021, evasive bad bots - a grouping of moderate and advanced bad bots that elude standard security defenses - made up 65.6 percent of all bad bot traffic. This breed of bot uses the latest evasion techniques, including cycling through random IPs, entering through anonymous proxies, changing identities, and mimicking human behavior to evade detection. 

Bad bot business impacts

Bad bots enable high-speed abuse, misuse, and attacks on websites, mobile apps, and APIs. Successful attacks can lead to the theft of personal information, credit card data, and loyalty points. For organizations, automated abuse and online fraud contributes to non-compliance with data privacy and transaction regulations. Bad bot traffic is rising at a time when organizations are investing in improving customer experiences online. It’s resulted in more digital services, new online functionality, and the development of expansive API ecosystems. Unfortunately, this array of new endpoints is a ripe target for automated attacks by bad bot operators.

“Businesses cannot overlook the impact of malicious bot activity as it is contributing to more account compromise, higher infrastructure and support costs, customer churn, and degraded online services,” says Ryan Windham, Vice President, Application Security, Imperva. “With automated fraud growing in intensity and complexity, advanced bot protection is essential for preventing the growing threat digital businesses and consumers face from bad bots.”

Key findings from the 2022 Imperva Bad Bot Report:

  • Account takeover increased 148 percent in 2021: In 2021, 64.1 percent of ATO attacks used an advanced bad bot. Financial services was the most targeted industry (34.6 percent), followed by Travel (23.2 percent). The United States was the leading origin country of ATO attacks (54 percent) in 2021.
  • Proportion of bad bot traffic varies by country: In 2021, Germany (39.6 percent), Singapore (39.1 percent), and Canada (30.2 percent) experienced the highest volumes of bad bot traffic, while the United States (29.1 percent) and United Kingdom (29.7 percent) were also higher than the global average (27.7 percent) of bad bot traffic.
  • 35.6 percent of bad bots hide as mobile web browsers: Mobile user agents were a popular disguise for bad bot traffic in 2021, accounting for more than one-third of all Internet traffic, increasing from 28.1 percent in 2020. Mobile Safari was a popular agent in 2021 because bots exploited the browser’s improved user privacy settings to mask their behavior, making them harder to detect. 

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