Bots account for half of all web traffic

A new report from Imperva finds that 49.6 percent of all internet traffic came from bots in 2023, a two percent increase over the previous year, and the highest level since the company began monitoring automated traffic in 2013.

The proportion of web traffic associated with bad bots grew to 32 percent in 2023, up from 30.2 percent in 2022, while traffic from human users decreased to 50.4 percent. Automated traffic is costing organizations billions of dollars annually due to attacks on websites, APIs, and applications.

Looked at by country, Ireland (71 percent), Germany (67.5 percent), and Mexico (42.8 percent), saw the highest levels of bad bot traffic in 2023. The US also saw a slightly higher ratio of bad bot traffic at 35.4 percent compared to 2022 (32.1 percent).

By industry, gaming (57.2 percent) saw the largest proportion of bad bot traffic. Meanwhile, retail (24.4 percent), travel (20.7 percent), and financial services (15.7 percent) experienced the highest volume of bot attacks. The proportion of advanced bad bots, those that closely mimic human behavior and evade defenses, was highest on law and government (75.8 percent), entertainment (70.8 percent), and financial services (67.1 percent) websites.

"Bots are one of the most pervasive and growing threats facing every industry," says Nanhi Singh, general manager, application security at Imperva, a Thales company. "From simple web scraping to malicious account takeover, spam, and denial of service, bots negatively impact an organization’s bottom line by degrading online services and requiring more investment in infrastructure and customer support. Organizations must proactively address the threat of bad bots as attackers sharpen their focus on API-related abuses that can lead to account compromise or data exfiltration."

The rapid adoption of generative AI and large language models has resulted in the volume of simple bots increasing to 39.6 percent in 2023, up from 33.4 percent in 2022. The technology uses web scraping bots and automated crawlers to feed training models, while enabling non-technical users to write automated scripts for their own use.

"Automated bots will soon surpass the proportion of internet traffic coming from humans, changing the way that organizations approach building and protecting their websites and applications," adds Singh. "As more AI-enabled tools are introduced, bots will become omnipresent. Organizations must invest in bot management and API security tools to manage the threat from malicious, automated traffic."

The full report is available from the Imperva site.

Image credit: phonlamai/

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