Bots: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Laura BednarCybersecurity

Bots Good Bad Ugly Social Media Influence

As technology advances over time, so do we. People have utilized technology as a way to learn, research, communicate and make decisions. This makes sending and receiving information easier than ever and instant to our eyes and ears. The problem is that when technology is our biggest outlet for the “truth,” it also becomes an outlet for falsehoods and exaggerations.

Any new advancements in something that could benefit us inevitably creates something that could harm us. Media Bots are often computer-generated response tools used across the internet to automate tasks. While there are some bots that work in our interest, there are bots that can be used against us, too. As part of SecureData’s series for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we will look at the types of bots used for different purposes and how to spot the truth through the fog of computer-generated responses.

The Good – Notification and Commercial Bots

  • Bots used for notification purposes can be a helpful tool. Amber and severe weather alerts can be pushed out to our phones based on our location, informing us immediately when something is happening in our area. Local volunteer or social groups may send messages regarding events or keep you in the loop on other community-related issues.
  • Bots used to help businesses and people may save time and money. Some semi-automated process bots can reach out to us to confirm appointments or notify us of suspicious activity on our accounts. These are generated by the business to automate some actions that a live person would usually complete.
  • Websites deploy bots to answer customer’s questions about a product or service. While it may feel like a scam that you’re not talking to a real person, the responses are often generated from answers to frequently asked questions. This saves both you and the business time and money in the long run.

The Bad – Popularity and Manipulative Bots

  • Some bots can create or add to the illusion of popularity. These are created for the sole purpose of boosting a person, a thing, or even a product’s popularity by repeating positive comments across the internet. While many people may have positive things to say about something, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bots out there recreating it for gain.
  • Some bots may be created to gain your positive opinion. Just like the bots used to boost popularity, they were created to sway your thoughts or opinions on something so you have a more positive viewpoint.

The Ugly – Harassment and Hate Bots

  • Bots can be used to automatically harass humans. One typical type of bot harassment is to piggyback off a human’s negative comments; repeating the negative comment through multiple fake accounts–sometimes thousands of times. While bot activity can be reported through most social media platforms, likely the damage had already been done.
  • Bots can be used to spread hate towards groups or subjects. In the same way that positive posts aid in growing the popularity of a business, person or product, hate bots spread negative posts to detract from a cause or damage someone’s reputation. These hate posts are used to sway public opinion, limit free speech, and manipulate real people into choosing a particular course of action or side with a cause that may not be deserving of their support.

Should Bots Be Believed?

The idea of artificial intelligence technology taking over human-driven tasks is something that has always sounded a little sketchy. But not all bots are built for sinister purposes; some bots are semi-automated with the help of human counterparts and reach out to us to provide helpful information. A lot of businesses and people benefit from good bots and we may not even realize it. But always remember that not all social media bots are created equal.

When using the internet to research a subject, cause, or project, make sure that you are using trusted, human-controlled sources. Take caution when reading news from social media platforms or using comments on websites as a single source for formulating an opinion. Good bots can make your life easier. Bad and ugly bots have the power to manipulate your feelings or choices, if you let them. Always be vigilant and not-so-quick to agree or believe what you are reading.

Secure Data provides data recovery, hard drive and RAID repair, computer forensics and other professional media services throughout the United States. Our industry certifications, experienced engineers, and award-winning SecureDrive and SecureUSB products prove we offer the highest quality and services available today. Call 1-800-388-1266 to learn more about our data protection services and products.