Bot Managers: How Do They Work?

by Jones David

It’s no secret that bots are now a major part of our internet traffic, and if you are running a website, chances are, you’ll have bot activities on your site.

While there is a huge portion of this bot traffic that comes from good bots from reputable companies like Google or Facebook, there are also a lot of malicious bots operated by hackers and cybercriminals circulating on the internet. They can cause long-term and even permanent damage to your financial gains and reputation, and there’s a high probability some of them are already targeting your site.

This is where bot managers come in to help protect your website and network from malicious bot activities, and here we will learn how they actually work.

Let us begin, however, by discussing the basics of internet bots so that we are on the same page.

What Is a Bot?

A bot, or to be exact, an internet bot, is an automated program or software that operates on a network (over the internet.) These bots are programmed to perform specific tasks—typically simple but repetitive tasks— at a much faster rate than a human ever could.

For example, Googlebot has a single task of crawling different web pages and indexing content so Google can include the indexed websites on its search result pages. This is a fairly simple activity that any human user can do, but Googlebot can scan the pages hundreds if not thousands of times faster.

Bots can essentially do any non-creative task, any task that can be automated. Bots can click on links, fill out and submit forms automatically, “read” blog posts, “watch” videos, and so on. Today’s advanced bots can also perform advanced activities like holding basic conversations with humans (chatbots) with AI and machine learning technologies.

The thing is, cybercriminals can also take advantage of the bot’s speed to perform malicious attacks like scanning and stealing a web page’s content, posting spam links, attempting brute force and credential stuffing attacks, and others.

Bot Managers: Why Is It Necessary?

Why is bot managers necessary? Can’t we just identify non-human traffic and block them all altogether?

The thing is, bot managers are necessary because there are two core challenges in any bot management efforts:

  • We don’t want to block beneficial good bots: As discussed, there are good bots that are beneficial for our website and/or our business, so we don’t want to accidentally block them from accessing our website. Yet, differentiating between malicious ones from these bad bots can be a major challenge since a lot of bad bots are disguising themselves as reputable bots.
  • We don’t want to accidentally block legitimate human users: Today’s bots are getting better and better at impersonating human behaviors like performing randomized, non-linear mouse movements. They can also mask their user agents while also rotating between a lot of different IP addresses, so IP-based detection is simply impossible. Without a proper bot manager, we’ll have a high false-positive rate.

Bot managers essentially enable us to filter which bots are allowed to access our website’s resources: allowing beneficial bots to access our sites while mitigating (or fully blocking) activities from malicious and/or unwanted bots.

When malicious bots are allowed to access our site, they can overload your server, slowing or denying your service for legitimate users while also causing various potential damages such as:

  • Web/content scraping: stealing hidden/unauthorized information and publish it to your competitors and/or to the public, as well as posting the content on another website to disrupt your SEO performance.
  • Spam: posting spam links on your comment section, polluting your data, and creating a bad customer experience with potentially fraudulent content.
  • Brute force: ‘guessing’ your password/username by trying all the possible combinations rapidly.
  • Credential stuffing: using stolen credentials on your system to attempt account takeovers.
  • Inventory hoarding: ‘buying’ and locking your inventory, blocking legitimate buyers from purchasing your eCommerce product

How Bot Manager Works

While there are various different methods and techniques that have been invented to effectively detect and manage bots, generally they can be categorized into just three major approaches:

  • Challenge-based: the bot is filtered by ‘challenging’ the bot with a test that is difficult for automated programs to solve, but is relatively easy for human users to solve. CAPTCHA is the most common form of challenge-based bot management technique, but there are also other methods we can use. With the presence of CAPTCHA farms, however, challenge-based bot mitigations are becoming less and less effective.
  • Fingerprinting-based: in this approach, the bot manager analyzes incoming traffic to look for ‘fingerprints’ that might signify the presence of malicious bots like blacklisted IP address, headless browser, inconsistent OS usage, and so on. The weakness of this approach is that it can only identify ‘known’ fingerprints, so sophisticated hackers that are careful with disguising the bot’s fingerprints with reputable ones can get around this approach.
  • Behavioral-based: in this approach, the bot manager analyzes the behavior of the traffic and detects anomalies, scoring every request generated from the traffic by how different it is from the ‘baseline’. This approach is often combined with AI and machine-learning technologies to create a reliable bot score for every request.

With how bots are becoming more sophisticated and are now using AI-based technologies to impersonate legitimate traffic, a behavioral-based bot detection and protection software like DataDome is now preferred so it can effectively differentiate good bots from bad bots in real-time, and block the malicious bot activities accordingly.


A good bot manager must be able to:

  • Properly differentiate good bots from malicious bots
  • Properly differentiate bot traffic from legitimate human users
  • Decide whether to block the incoming traffic or implement rate-limiting or other approaches as needed
  • Challenge the traffic via CAPTCHA, JavaScript, and other methods
  • Filter bot traffic based on fingerprint reputation (IP address whitelist, browser used, OS used, etc. )

With how to bot activities are increasingly becoming more and more dangerous and much more difficult to manage, a proper bot manager is now a necessity for any business with an online presence.

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