The bot epidemic: How automated traffic is reshaping the digital landscape

Thales 2024 Imperva Bad Bot Report has brought to light that nearly 50% of internet traffic in 2023 was generated by bots, marking a 2% increase from 2022. 

This surge has propelled the figure to the highest level ever recorded by Imperva since it commenced the monitoring of automated traffic back in 2013. More alarmingly, the proportion of internet traffic attributable to malicious bots, also known as bad bots, has for the fifth consecutive year seen an uptick, rising to 32% in 2023 from 30.2% in the previous year. This growth in bot activity has been accompanied by a decline in human-driven traffic, which now accounts for just over 50%.

The rise in automated traffic has been identified as a costly menace for organisations, with billions of dollars lost annually to attacks targeting websites, APIs, and applications. “Bots are one of the most pervasive and growing threats facing every industry,” Thales’s General Manager of Application Security, Nanhi Singh, highlighted. He pointed out the diverse range of damages bots cause, from web scraping to denial of service, which necessitates increased investment in infrastructure and customer support to mitigate their impact.

Significant findings from the report include Ireland, Germany, and Mexico experiencing the highest levels of bad bot traffic in 2023, with the US also observing an increase. A notable trend is the growing use of generative AI and large language models, which has led to an increase in the volume of simple bots. Furthermore, account takeover attacks rose by 10% in 2023, with a significant proportion targeting API endpoints. The report also underscores that every industry faces challenges related to bot traffic, with the gaming sector experiencing the largest proportion of bad bot traffic.

The 2024 Imperva Bad Bot Report reveals a pressing need for organisations to bolster their defenses against automated threats, especially those targeting APIs. Singh emphasises the urgency of investing in bot management and API security tools to manage the burgeoning threat posed by malicious, automated traffic.

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