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Under a Bot (from English robot , robot ') is meant a computer program , which largely automatically executes repetitive tasks, without having to rely on an interaction with a human user.

Examples of bots, the crawlers of Internet - search engines that visit websites automatically, while the existing links follow and where appropriate to evaluate the content of the pages. "Benign" bots adhere to the Robot Exclusion Standards , with which server operators can influence the behavior of a bot within limits. "Malicious" bots are used, for example, to collect e-mail addresses for advertising purposes ( spambots ) and for the massive unauthorized copying of web content to the systematic spying on software gaps in servers with the aim of breaking into servers. Measures against the unwanted reading of websites by bots (“spidering”) include analyzing the behavior of the bots in a trap (“ honeypot ”) and reacting, for example, by blocking the bot's IP address .

If bots communicate with each other, one speaks of a botnet or botnet .

Function in computer games

In computer games , computer-controlled actors who take on the roles of actually human players in multiplayer mode are also referred to as bots. In role-playing games , one also speaks of non-player characters . In action games, the Aimbot is not an automated player, but an aiming aid created by an external program (see cheat ).

Internet relay chat

In IRC , bots are used to control, entertain and keep channels open .

Online poker

Online poker providers go to great lengths to identify self-playing poker bots in order to avert financial damage.

Bots as a cheat

In addition to being used in computer games as an artificial opponent, bots are also often used as a kind of cheat . With the development of the online game market towards the free-to-play model, many games require a lot of time to be invested in a game. The market reaction is to offer software that automates “ farming ” and saves the player time and money. However, using such software is against the terms and conditions of most games and may result in account termination. Likewise, the operators of computer games are increasingly successfully attacking the manufacturers of bots by having them legally forbidden to use the client software for programming the bots or to sell the programmed bots.

Social bots: function in social media

In social media , social bots are used to set automatic responses. On Twitter, social bots can be installed that react to specific hashtags and then send previously programmed information. For this purpose, realistic-looking accounts with profile pictures, posts and followers are created, which also follow other users themselves. They are usually used to spread advertising or to fake majorities. Many of the bots used are programmed with simple algorithms. To find relevant topics, they use simple keyword searches and scan Facebook posts and Twitter timelines for specific words and hashtags.

However, it is controversial whether social bots actually exist to a significant extent or whether there are measurement errors in the data collection. In particular, the "botometer" used for the evaluation is suspected of generating false hits. On the one hand, the learning software of the botometer would be fed with old samples of spam accounts for commercial products as training material due to a lack of bot data, on the other hand the numbers that the botometer spits out are always accepted as absolute truth (botometer score of more than 2, 5 is considered a bot). The professor for media informatics Florian Gallwitz, who deals intensively with the topic of social bots, is not aware of any case in which a social bot has influenced a political debate. He also does not consider the technical maturity of the technology to be sufficient to convince people politically or to involve them in discussions.

Social bots should also be used for astroturfing . In 2016, the NDR magazine Zapp reported that social bots were being used to spread political propaganda in the interests of their clients. Numerous social bots were also used in the election campaign for Brexit, as well as in the election campaign for the US presidency between Clinton and Trump. According to a study by the University of Oxford , after the first TV duel, more than every third tweet (37.2%) for Trump was computer-controlled, while the proportion of tweets for Hillary Clinton was 22.3%. Research also suggests that bots play a major role in spreading misinformation from climate change deniers on Twitter. According to this, about 25% of the tweets that were sent about the announced withdrawal of the USA from the Paris climate protection agreement for the climate crisis came from bots. This denied u. a. scientific findings on man-made climate change and faked approval of Trump's exit.

For normal users, it is almost impossible to tell whether a post on social media such as Twitter comes from a natural person or a machine. Social bots are therefore also seen as dangerous for the free opinion-forming process in a democracy; however, some experts disagree with this view. In Germany, the CDU, SPD, Greens, Left Party and FDP have spoken out against the use of bots in the next federal election campaign. Despite statements to the contrary, the AfD is spreading its pointed election advertising in a targeted manner, using existing algorithms, in social networks. A study examined the role of social bots in the 2017 federal election campaign and found that the proportion of social bots during the election campaigns had increased from 7.1% to 9.9%.

Since the company value of Twitter and other short message services is measured by the number of accounts and the related personal user data, the companies have little interest in disclosing how many accounts are actually fakes, according to observers.

Facebook goes one step further by explicitly allowing so-called chatbots for its messenger and allowing them to interact directly with users. On the one hand, the focus is on the direct service for the user, but certainly also on the goal of increasing the length of time the user stays in the respective network and thus increasing the marketing value. The latter is indirectly documented in recent publications specifically for Facebook, as an analysis function of bot activities is now also offered for corporate customers.

Despite all the risks and challenges, the diverse potentials and possible applications of the underlying technology must not be disregarded. In the media and publishing industry, bots allow the automated writing of articles and the assumption of routine tasks. Automated communication by bots can also be used to inform and educate the public. By integrating the technologies in smart assistants and new interfaces, bots also become daily helpers and companions.

Malicious bots

Malicious bots carry out automated attacks on network computers, often using botnets or spambots . The target is often click fraud

Over 90% of all websites have already been targeted by such attacks. Malicious bots are categorized by the information security project OWASP .

Types of malicious bots and botnets:

  1. E-mail harvesters ( spambots ) that filter e-mail addresses from the network and use them for undesired purposes
  2. So-called zombie programs that send out mass emails
  3. Downloader programs that block network capacity
  4. Website scrapers which extract the content of external websites and use them without the consent of the authors, for example to achieve better search engine results for advertising pages
  5. Registration bots which register third-party e-mail addresses with various services in order to fill e-mail inboxes with unwanted (confirmation) messages and to distract them from important e-mails. A countermeasure can be CAPTCHAs , which try to ensure that only human users can log in.
  6. Software that performs DDoS attacks
  7. Software that automatically buys tickets for concerts and other events in order to resell them at a better price.
  8. Software bots are used to artificially increase the number of hits for YouTube videos or similar offers, especially if they are used to increase sales or to generate advertising income.

It is assumed that around half of all advertisements sold on the Internet are not shown to any human users, but are only visited by special bots.

  1. Bots are also used to manipulate opinions by placing automated comments on internet forums.

Bots send bulk emails

A mass mailing of e-mails either by a single source or distributed through " zombie " botnets in the type of DDoS attacks. These are often relatively easy to identify and sort out using spam filters .

A spambot called in English email bomb sends large amounts of e-mails to a mail address in order to block the associated e-mail inbox , the responsible mail server in the manner of a denial-of-service attack (DoS attack ) or as a red herring to divert attention from important messages that would indicate a security risk.

In the case of an email cluster bomb or list linking , the victim's email address is entered on various email distribution lists or registered with services that regularly send mass emails. These are usually not sorted out by spam filters because they come from legitimate sources. The victim has to manually unsubscribe from the distribution lists. The registration can be done with a simple script and can hardly be traced back to the originator. In August 2016, a large-scale attack of this type took place on .gov email addresses of American government institutions.

In order to prevent the automated entry of e-mail addresses in distribution lists, these services often send a confirmation e-mail, which in turn has to be responded to. This prevents future e-mails from being sent, but at least causes another e-mail to be received.

List linking is used to fill the recipient's email inbox and to distract them from the fact that their Amazon account has been tampered with. The corresponding notifications from Amazon can then easily be overlooked in the flood of other messages.

Web links

Wiktionary: Bot  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sebastian Telle: on the judgment of the OLG Dresden from January 20, 2015, Az .: 14 U 1127/14 Telemedicus
  2. Sebastian Telle: on the judgment of the OLG Hamburg from November 6, 2014, Az .: 3 U 86/13 Telemedicus
  3. ^ Social bots - the technology behind fake news . April 25, 2018. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  4. The fairy tale of "Social Bots". In: Tagesspiegel. June 3, 2019, accessed June 12, 2019 .
  5. Marc Felix Serrao: «I am not aware of any case in which a social bot would have influenced a political debate» . In: NZZ . December 20, 2018 ( http: // social-bots-professor-warnt-vor-politischem-aktionismus / [accessed June 12, 2019]).
  6. Network attack: Bots fire against topics. In: NDR, accessed April 22, 2016 .
  7. Social bots distort the 2016 US Presidential election online discussion. In: First Monday. Alessandro Bessi and Emilio Ferrara, accessed January 24, 2019 .
  8. Election campaign: Only the AfD wants to use social bots. In: ARD, accessed on October 22, 2016 .
  9. Revealed: quarter of all tweets about climate crisis produced by bots . In: The Guardian , February 21, 2020. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  10. Do opinion robots endanger democracy? In: Retrieved October 16, 2016 .
  11. Expert discussion in the Bundestag: Experts consider the influence of social bots to be overrated. In: Retrieved March 6, 2017 .
  12. AfD rejects the use of so-called social bots. In: Retrieved January 16, 2017 .
  13. Jens Schneider, How a US agency helps the AfD in the election campaign Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 14, 2017
  14. ^ Social Bots in Election Campaigns: Theoretical, Empirical, and Methodological Implications. In: Political Communication. Tobias R. Keller and Ulrike Klinger, accessed on January 25, 2019 .
  15. Andreas Weck: Chatbots in Facebook Messenger. In: April 14, 2016, accessed November 15, 2016 .
  16. Amy Stapleton: Facebook launches analysis function for bot activities. In: OpusResearch, November 15, 2016, accessed November 16, 2016 .
  17. ^ Jan Dennis Gumz, Resa Mohabbat Kar: Social Bots. Competence Center Public IT, April 2017, accessed on April 6, 2017 .
  18. Igal Zeifman: Bot Traffic Report 2016 . Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  19. a b c Dima Bekerman: How Registration Bots Concealed the Hacking of My Amazon Account , Application Security, Industry Perspective, December 1st 2016, In:
  20. Ido Safruti: Why Detecting Bot Attacks Is Becoming More Difficult . DARKReading.
  21. Ryan Holiday: Fake Traffic Means Real Paydays . BetaBeat. Archived from the original on April 29, 2014. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved June 11, 2019. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  22. Percy von Lipinski: CNN's iReport hit hard by pay-per-view scandal . PulsePoint. May 28, 2013. Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved July 21, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. 10 Types Of Cyber ​​Crimes ... And Another 10 You've Never Heard Of ( en-gb ) Silverbug. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  24. ^ The Return of Email Flooding ( en ) Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  25. Email Bombing and ways to protect yourself ( en-US ) May 4, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  26. ^ Markus Jakobsson, Filippo Menczer: Untraceable Email Cluster Bombs . In: ; login: . 28, No. 6, December 2003. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  27. a b Markus Jakobsson, Filippo Menczer: Scott C.-H. Huang, David MacCallum, Ding-Zhu Du (Eds.): Web Forms and Untraceable DDoS Attacks ( en ). Springer US, January 1, 2010, ISBN 978-0-387-73820-8 , pp. 77-95, arxiv : cs / 0305042 , doi : 10.1007 / 978-0-387-73821-5_4 .
  28. Massive Email Bombs Target. Gov Addresses - Krebs on Security . Retrieved August 23, 2016.