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Are Robots Taking Over the Internet?

More than half of all internet traffic generated is not from humans. No, it’s not from aliens, either. It’s from robots, or rather from automated systems – many of which are malicious.

According to ZDNet, only about 49% of any site activity is from human beings. The rest is from automated systems. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 5% is from hacking tools looking for vulnerability. The intentions here are always malicious. So if you ever wonder why you have to install so many updates and security patches, this is it. Try not installing the patches for a while and you’ll find out very quickly what a honeypot is.
  • 7% is from scrapers and automated content spammers. Scrapers are primarily programs designed to extract content from another site. Sometimes scrapers are legitimate and are used to populate mashup sites that help bring together related content from various sources but more often than not, the intent is to steal your content. Either they are stealing your content to populate their own site or they are stealing your content to spam search engines and generate traffic they don’t rightfully deserve.
  • A whopping 19% is from spyware. These are malicious programs that get into both personal computers and business systems to steal information or blast you with advertisements. On personal computers they are mostly looking for log-in IDs and passwords or credit card numbers, or monitoring your activities so they can target you with ads as you browse the internet. On business systems, they are generally looking for information like trade secrets, designs and plans, or financial information. Whatever the reason, the intention is not good.
  • The remaining 20% of nonhuman traffic is generated from benign automated systems. These come from a variety of sources like search engines crawling your site, automated response email, monitoring systems that ping sites to verify they are in service, etc.

If you are using analytics to monitor site traffic, you won’t see most of this activity in your logs. Much of the analytics software relies on java script to trigger an event and record a page view. A human-operated browser with java script enabled will trigger the event, thus you’ll see most of the human traffic, but not so much of the traffic from automated systems. That comes in under the radar.

So, if you ever wonder why the light keeps blinking and blinking on your firewall or router when you’re not doing anything, this is why. And for those of you who’ve always had that feeling that “they” are out to get you, you can now feel vindicated. When you’re on the internet, they probably ARE.

Be safe . . . and happy browsing.

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