Bots overtake humans on the internet

7 Feb 2017

The machines are coming: bots now account for more internet traffic than people. Image: Shevs/Shutterstock

If you have been wondering when machines will overtake people, they already have. Bots now account for more than half of the world’s internet traffic.

It seems that bots are everywhere these days and just like with people, there are good ones and bad ones.

According to a new report, 48.2pc of internet traffic comes from humans.

The remainder comes from bots, of which 22.9pc are defined by Imperva as good bots and 28.9pc are bad, mischievous bots.

Examples of good bots are ‘spiders’, which services such as Google use to map the internet, and ‘feed fetchers’, which the likes of Facebook use to refresh news feeds. Most of these good bots have official monikers. Good bots also include search engine bots and commercial crawlers.

Bad bots operate in the shadows and include Trojans such as Nitol, DDoS bots such as Cyclone, and password-cracking tools such as Sentry MBA. An honourable mention goes to Mirai, a DDoS bot that compromised IoT devices with weak security last year to launch devastating, unprecedented attacks on websites.

Bad bots threaten to disrupt internet traffic

In the bad bot category, impersonator bots such as Mirai – bots that mask themselves as legitimate visitors to circumvent security – continue to be the most active offenders and were responsible for 24.3pc of traffic on Imperva’s network.

When used in HTTP flood assaults, Mirai employs impersonation tactics, masquerading as Chrome or Safari browsers, for example.

The bad news is that mischievous bots know no limits and according to the report, 94.2pc of websites experienced a bot attack over the 90-day period of research.

Now that the machines are taking over, is there any good news for humanity?

The report did say that the use of good bots grew considerably in 2016, while bad bots stayed static.

Bots are understood to have surpassed human traffic mainly due to the growth of mobile.

According to StatCounter, in November 2016, mobile traffic outgrew desktop traffic for the first time, reaching 50.31pc.

Bots overtake humans on the internet

Infographic: Incapsula

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years