In Tech Trends, Web Security

Well, the battle of the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence (AI) rages on. We’ve written a lot about AI in the past, but more and more we are seeing a concern about the growth of generative AI that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. The proliferation of AI bots is having a substantial but somewhat hidden impact on website resources and online business profitability.

Our concerns are many, so we’ll run through a few of them below.

AI Bots are a Drain on Hosting Resources

Probably the most widespread effect the proliferation of AI bot traffic is having on website management is the higher hosting costs related to increased bandwidth and the strain on server resources. This can also lead to slower website performance or even website downtime, both of which can be costly to any online business.

But it doesn’t stop there. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks have been on the increase for years. DDoS attacks are initiated by flooding a website with superfluous traffic in order to overwhelm server resources and bring the website down. With bots now powered by generative AI, these attacks are not only getting more sophisticated, but far more severe. 

AI Bots Might Be Skewing Your Analytics Data and Advertising Metrics

Because of generative AI, bots are getting more advanced and can often evade detection by analytics platforms and show up in analytics as legitimate traffic. Bot traffic showing up in analytics data has actually been an issue for some time, but generative AI has also drastically increased the amount of bot traffic, taking a bad problem and making it exponentially worse.

More advanced AI bots are also being used to generate fraudulent clicks on ads, driving up ad costs for businesses and skewing ad performance metrics. The impact of this on online advertising as a whole is very worrisome and could make advertising cost prohibitive for less technologically savvy businesses.

Many analytics and ad platforms have strategies to identify bots, but as AI bot behaviors become more human-like, detecting them gets more difficult every day. Google Analytics GA4 uses internal proprietary resources and the IAB/ABC International Spiders and Bots List to identify bots. Other platforms like Matomo only track web visitors with Javascript enabled. Bots don’t typically execute Javascript, but even that is beginning to change with the more advanced AI bots. 

You May Be a Victim of Web Scraping and Content Theft by AI Bots

We’ve written quite a bit about how AI is affecting blogging strategies, content creation, and SEO but what we didn’t get into detail about was that the mechanism generative AI platforms like ChatGPT use to scrape information from around the web is the seemingly innocuous bot. Basically when you put a prompt into any generative AI platform, it is likely spitting back a mishmash of anything related it found on the web – whether those website owners wanted their information used or not.

Bots have always been out there scraping web content – Google uses bots to learn about your website content to rank and offer your site up in their search results. But there has been a big worry for many years that this technology could be used to steal content and other intellectual property.  Not only has this fear been realized with generative AI, but now AI has now made the bots even more advanced and aggressive in what they do.

AI Bots are Getting Better at Impersonating Humans

As mentioned above, bots are getting more human-like in their behaviors, not only slipping through bot detection gateways (“I am not a robot”), but are also being used to create fake accounts. The fake users they create can then be used for a long list of disruptive activities including spreading misleading information, impersonating social media users, phishing for data or financial information, and leaving fake reviews.

Some of the most seemingly mundane activities we do online like scrolling through social media or shopping are being compromised by this new generation of AI bots.

What is Being Done About Malicious AI Bots?

Ironically the best way to fight AI is with AI. Hosting companies, analytics and online advertising platforms, search engines and the social media giants are all turning to AI tools to tackle the problem. But it is an arms race moving at a fever pitch. Lawmakers are scrambling to get up to speed as highlighted in this New York Times article from 2023. For the average online business owner or manager, the best strategy is to pay attention, keep all your online resources, security, and tools up to date, and work with a competent tech partner to make sure your webspace is as safe and secure for both you and your customers as it can be. 

If you are looking for a tech partner to help you navigate the complex world of the modern web, please reach out to us. We’re here to help!

Recommended Posts