A recent report from cybersecurity firm Imperva sheds light on the growing dominance of bots in global internet traffic. Bots, automated software programs that mimic human actions online, now contribute nearly half of the world’s internet activity, marking a significant milestone in digital behavior.

Imperva’s findings reveal that in 2023, bots generated 49.6 percent of total internet traffic, surpassing human-generated activity for the first time since the company began monitoring in 2013. This surge represents a notable increase from the previous year, with human-generated traffic declining to 50.4 percent.

Moreover, the study highlights a concerning trend in the proliferation of “bad bots,” which accounted for 32 percent of web traffic in 2023, marking a substantial 30.2 percent increase from 2022. Nanhi Singh, head of application security at Imperva, warns that bots pose a significant and escalating threat across various industries.

Bots are versatile tools, capable of autonomously scouring the web for information at remarkable speeds and processing vast amounts of data. While some bots serve constructive purposes, aiding businesses in legal and productive activities, others are malicious entities programmed to infiltrate networks, steal private data, and spread misinformation.

For instance, “scrapers” collect data from websites indiscriminately, while spam bots inundate platforms with unwanted messages. The rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) systems, such as ChatGPT, further fuels bot proliferation, with “simple bots” accounting for 39.6 percent of total traffic in 2023.

The report identifies regional disparities in bot activity, with Ireland topping the list for malicious bot traffic at 71 percent, followed by Germany (67.5 percent) and Mexico (42.8 percent). Notably, the United States witnessed a 3 percent increase in bad bot traffic, reaching 35.4 percent in 2023.

Imperva’s study also underscores the grave consequences of bot-driven activities, particularly account takeovers, which surged by 10 percent in 2023. Financial services bore the brunt of such attacks, with 36.8 percent of all account takeovers occurring in this sector, followed by travel (11.5 percent) and business services (8 percent).

Looking ahead, Singh warns that the bot menace is poised to escalate further, potentially becoming omnipresent in digital ecosystems. She advocates for proactive measures, urging organizations to implement robust bot management and security tools to mitigate automated threats and safeguard against devastating account takeovers.

By Impact Lab