Outsmarting Bots: How Honeypots Can Boost eCommerce Security
Bots are a growing menace for eCommerce businesses across sectors including retail, travel, gaming, and more. Automated attacks hurt sales, steal data, and damage site infrastructure. Legacy defenses relying on behavior analysis and signatures fail against today's highly sophisticated bots mimicking human patterns.
A smarter approach is strategic deception using honeypots - traps that lure bots but have no production value. Integrating deception tactics into your defenses can divert and reveal attacks early while frustrating bot efforts.
Current good and bad bot detection falls short
- Behavioral analysis - Bots get flagged for inhuman patterns like high click rates.
- Signature detection - Known bot tools and patterns are recognized.
- Device fingerprinting - Check for suspicious fingerprints like headless Chrome.
However, these approaches have severe limitations against modern bots:
- Behavior analysis fails once bots mimic humans well.
- Signatures only detect known bot tools. Newer tools go unnoticed.
- False positives from incorrectly flagged humans disrupt business.
- Updating detection patterns is complex and slow. Bots evolve rapidly.
- Reactive approaches allow bots to attack before detection.
Due to these gaps, sneaky bots bypass legacy systems and hurt eCommerce businesses.
Problems faced by online retailers
Ineffective bot management leads to major risks like:
- Scalper bots quickly snap up limited inventory of hot products before real shoppers can buy them. This leads to PR backlash.
- Scraping bots steal vast amounts of pricing data, product catalog information, customer reviews, and other original content. This undercuts competitive advantage.
- Gift card fraudster bots check the validity of stolen card numbers and monetize active ones before merchants can react.
- Bots attempt stolen username/password pairs on login forms to take over accounts and steal payment data.
- Malicious bots overload servers with junk traffic, hurting site availability and performance.
- Clicker bots generate fake ad clicks to inflate display ad costs.
Unique bot challenges for online travel
These are specific risks faced by the travel industry:
- Ticket scraping - Bots rapidly scrape ticket pricing and availability data from airline, hotel, and event sites. This undercuts competitive pricing strategies and drives up query costs.
- Blocking seat/ticket inventory - Bots book seats or tickets en masse without purchasing, preventing real customers from accessing limited inventory and driving up prices.
- Distorting analytics - Bots viewing listings without booking distort metrics like visitor counts used for marketing decisions.
- Enabling account takeovers - Compromised loyalty program accounts let bots improperly access and use customer miles and points.
- Reliance on OTAs - Airlines rely heavily on online travel agency bots for bookings, increasing their bot traffic and complexity.
Bot issues event ticketing sites face
Here are risks faced by the ticketing industry that can be faced with large volumes of traffic for key events:
- Ticket scalping bots - Bots rapidly purchase tickets the moment they go on sale, making it difficult for real fans to buy tickets before resellers mark them up drastically. This draws public criticism.
- Fake ticket botnets - Networks of bots impersonate customers to trick ticketing systems into issuing valid tickets that are sold illegally. This defrauds both ticketing companies and fans.
- Price scraping - Bots continuously scrape ticket prices and availability to undermine competitive pricing strategies.
- Ad click fraud - Bots generate fake ad clicks on ticket sale pages to artificially increase advertiser costs per click.
A honeypot is a decoy trap used in cybersecurity to detect, deflect, or analyze malicious bot activity. As bots parse pages, execute links, and fill in forms, they can be detected and analyzed using honeypots. These honeypots are isolated, monitored traps mimicking real environments. These honeypots exist right on web pages as bots and users come to visit. Real users will not see the honeypots, but bots will detect and interact with a link or an additional button hidden in the web page, or through another honeypot trap. When bots interact with honeypots, it reveals their behavior so security teams can take defensive action.
Today’s honeypots are designed with advanced deception technology that complement legacy defenses. They are implemented by creating fake application pages like product listings and databases and making them highly visible to bots via links on real pages or SEO optimization. Bots will attempt to interact with these honeypots as they crawl and scrape sites, unaware they are fakes. Meanwhile, all activity with the honeypot is closely logged and analyzed. Based on what traps the bot falls for, mitigation responses can be crafted.
Here are some techniques honeypots use to attract and detect malicious bots:
- Fake login page links to catch credential stuffing attacks.
- Product pages with inaccurate data to divert scraping.
- Fake gift card generators with valid codes to lure fraud bots.
- Pages with spun content that seems unique to distract content scraping.
Why do bots fall for these traps?
Bots aim to interact with as many application pages as possible to scrape valuable data or find vulnerabilities. Bots will hit fake product pages trying to extract pricing data, hit fake login forms with stolen credentials, and access fake databases. Without sophisticated logic to detect honeypots, bots fall for these traps revealing their presence and inner workings.
Why do honeypots have huge advantages over legacy detection?
- No false positives since real users don't find or access honeypot areas.
- Bots get distracted exploring high-interaction honeypots instead of attacking production systems.
- Attack footprints are captured as bots interact with traps. No need to wait for damage.
- Easy to quickly deploy new traps mimicking latest targets. Bots get frustrated finding no value.
- Low performance impact since traps are served selectively to suspicious visitors.
360-degree protection with honeypots
Honeypots provide 360-degree protection against various threats:
- Against Scraping - Fake product and inventory pages divert scrapers. Generated content with spun text wastes scraper time and resources.
- Against Account Takeover - Honeypot login forms catch credential stuffing without locking out real users.
- Against Carding - Fake gift card generators lure fraud bots allowing merchants to track and blacklist them.
- Against Scalping - Bots get distracted trying to scalp fake limited inventory honeypots.
- Against Denial of Service - Traffic to honeypots reduces attack load on production servers.
Complementing legacy defenses
Most sites already use commercial bot mitigation services. The ideal approach is to complement legacy defenses with honeypots:
- Handoff hard to detect sneaky bots to honeypots for diversion.
- Reduce dependence on ineffective behavior analysis.
- Detect more attack variants to update legacy tool signatures.
- Retain backup protection if any bots get past the traps.
The advantages of the PhotonIQ Honeypot Service
Honeypot services like PhotonIQ Honeypot Service, powered by the Macrometa Global Data Network, handle the complexity of building, deploying, and managing sophisticated traps tailored to each business's needs at the edge. PhotonIQ lets eCommerce businesses take a dynamic approach to outsmarting bots by using honeypot trap triggers to detect bots in real time.
Honeypots utilize various traps that are dynamically created and managed to attract and deceive bots. For example, unused form fields called "honeytokens" can be embedded within real applications. Enticing "honey files" like PDFs or documents are also deployed as bait for bots.
These honeypot traps are randomly placed across different pages. Their links, forms, fields and cookies are generated dynamically to stay one step ahead of bots and prevent them from learning to avoid the traps.
By continuously monitoring bot interactions with the honeypots in real-time, analytics can correlate which honey triggers to use to block future bots. These insights are applied to create and deploy new unpredictable traps as needed.
Gain the bot security edge
Bots are a complex and constantly evolving threat. But their own techniques can be turned against them using smart honeypots that lure and deceive them.
Adding this potent deception capability can help eCommerce sites:
- Proactively divert attacks instead of waiting to get hacked.
- Outsmart persistent bots frustrating their efforts.
- Extract valuable insights into emerging bot behaviors.
- Strengthen defenses by complementing legacy tools.
Honeypots deliver a crucial edge against the bot menace. Fight back against bots on your terms with strategic honeypots. If you would like to learn more about how the PhotonIQ Honeypot Service can bolster your bot defenses, please schedule a chat with an Enterprise Solution Architect.
"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." - Sun Tzu