How shopping bots can compromise cybersecurity in retail


On-line Shopping bots are not new to the e-commerce world. Businesses use bots to provide better customer service, but malicious bots can do a lot of damage to a business. These pose cybersecurity risks for e-commerce retailers and consumers alike.

Some customers use shopping bots to perform automated tasks based on a series of instructions, such as: B. log on to the website -> search for a specific product -> add product to shopping cart -> proceed to checkout. Almost all shopping bots have an unfair advantage. For example, if a user wants to manually wait for their favorite items to be replenished, such as coveted tickets for sporting events or trading cards to collect, they would have to sit at the computer all day and update their browser by hand.

However, shopping bots do this job for them. You could program the software to look for a specific string of characters on a specific website. In this case, the bot performs a task to add the product to the cart and check out, or in some cases notify an email address. If shopping bots work correctly and in parallel, the product they are looking for is usually sold out quickly.

How shopping bots can pose cybersecurity risks

The general impression of a shopping bot is that it is making sales. So what could be the problem with shopping bots?

While good bots are welcome, some bots can be malicious, especially if they are in the wrong hands. A survey found that companies lost more than $ 100,000 in revenue from a single bot attack.

Ecommerce sites attacked by bad shopping bots aren’t new. An Imperva report presented the following statistics:

  • Bots make up 30.8% of the traffic on ecommerce websites
  • 17.7% of all traffic on ecommerce sites comes from bad bots
  • Almost 23.5% of these bad bots are considered sophisticated bots.

So how do you tell a good bot from a bad one? Some types can pose more business and cybersecurity risks to online retailers and customers than others.

Filling credentials

These bots pretend to be interacting with the system as real customers by using the real identity of the customers either received from the internet or bought from the dark web. Such bots compromise vulnerable passwords to gain user credentials. The information stolen can include email addresses, credit card numbers, and other information. It enables these adversaries to launch cyberattacks such as phishing, business email compromise, and malware attacks. These bots compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in systems and can negatively impact a company’s reputation.

Inventory Denial

Sometimes it is practically impossible to buy a product online because it is sold out. This could be the work of inventory denial bots. These mimick human traffic to access ecommerce websites and bulk items into cash baskets. This action fools the system into thinking that the inventory is sold out. As a result, it causes negative feedback from customers about the targeted brand on social media. Threat actors behind such malicious bots do not buy the items right away. Instead, they put them up for sale on alternative websites at higher prices. Once the customer places the order, the bot completes the transactions by unloading the carts and helps the malicious actors make a profit.

Scalping bots

Scalping bots search the internet for limited availability products that may be sold out when users search for them. These bots automatically add the items to the cart as soon as they are available, automatically fill in the purchase forms and checkout in a short amount of time so that the real customers waiting for the items cannot buy them. Scalping bots not only cause financial losses for the company, they also rob the company of the opportunity to know who its real customers are. These bots prevent the company from selling products and contacting customers to promote other goods.

Scraper bots

Scraper bots scan websites looking for elements and vulnerabilities in order to scrape them into a dark web library. These bots use application programming interfaces to place orders and complete transactions without having to navigate an ecommerce website like humans do. Hence, they act like inventory denial bots to cause sell-offs or even website crashes. Malicious actors use such data to undercut offers from real retailers by lowering their prices.

Be one step ahead of the shopping bots

Shopping bots can damage a company’s reputation by damaging brand image, crashing websites, increasing support costs, jeopardizing business deals, severing connections with customers, and negatively impacting key decision-making processes. In addition, these bots contain valuable data that the opponents behind can profitably exploit.

For this reason too, retailers should take the right cybersecurity measures. Stay up to date on how threat actors work and how they can use these bots to infiltrate your information assets.

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