Bots! What Are They And How Do They Affect Me?

First of all, what in the world is a “bot?” Most people have at least heard of them before, but may not know what exactly they are. A bot is a program designed to operate on its own and carry out whatever function it was intended to. Basically, a robot doing what it’s told.

They can run offline, online, or even as a combination, running offline and collecting information then sending it via email over the Internet.

An example of a bot is a web crawler. When you type in a search into Google, it uses crawlers to search the millions of sites and content for keywords you enter, then reports back. Web crawlers can also be used for data mining.

So how do these affect you? People employ the use of both good bots and bad bots. Most that you encounter are good ones, such as the search engine crawlers, but others can collect your private information.

Good bots or data miners are helpful, making your life easier or personalizing your ad experiences.

They can track statistics for marketing, like what types of things you shop for or what videos you watch on YouTube. In turn, they use this data to put those personalized ads on your screen. Sure, they might be annoying, but their intention is good.

Another example of a good bot could be when you post something on your Facebook account. A bot goes out to the site you’re sharing from and grabs whatever information it is programmed to take, then that information is posted on your page. Although it might seem simple, it’s a time-consuming task to complete manually, which the bot takes care of for you.

Then we have the bad side of bots. As easy it is to program a bot or data miner to collect innocent information, it is just as easy for a malicious person to program a bot to gather information they should not have, like banking information.
They can be programmed to go to hundreds (if not thousands) of sites, servers, or computers where highly sensitive data is stored. They take the information and send it back to their creator.

A recent example of malicious bot would be from the Ashley Madison hack. What they did was create bots that acted as profiles to attract others and steal information from them. Of course there are a myriad of other bad bots out there.

So how do you handle bots? Typically, you would handle them just as you would other malicious content through anti-virus and strong firewalls – along with using your judgment and staying away from suspicious sites, emails, and chat messages.

Data-mining can be blocked, but contact your trusted tech support provider before downloading or installing any programs or browser extensions.

As always, if you have any questions or if you’re interested in finding out how to better block bots, feel free to give us a call at 734-457-5000, or email us at

Has Your Computer Been Taken Over By a Bot?

David Perry, global director of education for security software provider Trend Micro, was recently quoted in PCWorld as saying, “An unprotected [Windows] computer will become owned by a bot within 14 minutes.”

A bot is an automated program that takes over your computer and uses it as a spam machine, to copy your personal information, such as credit cards numbers, or something equally as evil.

One way to spot a bot is to be aware of network activity when you aren’t on the Internet. You can put a network status light in your system tray. If you see it blinking when you are not using the Internet, there might be a problem.

Do this: In Windows XP, choose Start, Control Panel, Network Connections. You will see an icon for your network connection. Right-click the network connection and select Properties from the popup menu. Check “Show icon in notification area when connected,” and click OK.

Remember, lots of unexplained network activity can mean your computer is “owned” by a bot.

Double check by going to one of several free scanning sites such as McAfee Free Scan or Trend Micro’s House-Call. Then buy antivirus software, install a firewall, and never open e-mail attachments from unknown sources.