BOTs – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Among all the stories about the Pokémon Go craze recently, one was about a player who was curious about the level progression in the game and thought it prudent to deploy a software “Bot” to churn up as much experience points (XP) as possible.

So what is a bot or a software bot?

Bot is a software application that runs automated tasks on the internet; typically, bots perform tasks that are simple and repetitive at a rate faster than a human. And as in many things in this world bots may be used both constructively and for malicious purposes. The single most use of bots is as web crawlers, when automated script collects, analyzes and stores information from various servers at great speed.

iPhone’s Siri, the virtual assistant, is one of the most famous examples of conversation based computer interaction, a very useful bot, there are others like Facebook’s chatbot platform in Messenger which helps to browse for latest news, communicate with business, shop from standard sites and apps, all these from inside the Facebook messenger. And Wall Street Journal uses bots to furnish updates on news and financial markets on their Facebook page or Chatbot page. A US based florist deploys bot to start a conversation with the company, choose a bouquet, select the right address, write a note, choose the payment mode, all using their Facebook page, likewise with Spring – an American retailer, users can browse different items, choose price range, see related purchases and takes you to the main site, when the user is ready to buy.

Bots are extensively used in gaming technology, the most popular being the one used in the game “Detective Kees: Probable cause”, here the user tries to solve a murder by chatting up with a fictional detective for clues which is a bot.

Unfortunately, bots are deployed by cyber criminals for malicious purposes and with evil intent, they use bots to send out spam, distribute malware, steal data, and to run “Denial of Service attacks “. In the extreme form, bots may be made to run on computers without the owner’s knowledge turning it to a zombie performing nefarious activities in the background.

According to Incapsula – a company offering security to websites, bot traffic accounts to nearly 25% of the internet traffic today, and of these 30.5% is from malicious bots. Cyber security experts use three modes of approaches to counter malicious bots namely static, challenge based and behavioral approach in accordance with the severity and level of security required.

With the artificial intelligence software seeing dramatic increase in improvement, bots are being deployed as a substitute for replacing humans in mundane and automatic tasks but as AI progresses with its ability to make machines converse with humans, bots will be looked upon as a potentially lucrative market. That would be for another blog.































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