Cybersecurity is a pressing issue for businesses operating in a digital landscape today. A staggering 43% of all cyber threats are aimed at small businesses.
It becomes crucial for business owners to keep themselves educated and up-to-date with the newest threats in cybersecurity. One such threat is sneaker bots. They’re not technically a threat to your website, but rather a nuisance.
They’re designed to give their users an unfair advantage over human users in buying products. They can hamper your sales and the comfort of your buyers. Let’s take a deeper look at them and how you can protect your site from sneaker bots.
How to Protect Your Site from Sneaker Bots
While there are many used cases of sneaker bots, they are the most active during a digital sale of a limited edition product. Limited edition sales are already a challenging task to manage for a business as customers arrive in hoards to get to the coveted item first.
This is vastly complicated by the arrival of sneaker bots looking to give users an unfair advantage over others. They’re faster than humans and hog the products for themselves, leaving your customers unsatisfied and harming your reputation as a brand.
As they’re not technically a cyber threat, it becomes hard to identify them, let alone combat them. To help your business website stay protected from unwanted sneaker bots, you first need to understand what they are and how they work.
Let’s take an in-depth look at sneaker bots, how they impact your business, and what you can do to protect your website from them.
Understanding Sneaker Bots
Also known as ‘shoe bots’, sneaker bots are software solutions designed to automate the purchase of limited edition products. As their name suggests, they were initially created and used to automate the purchase of limited-edition sneakers.
However, they have since evolved to wider usability and are now used for any limited-edition product. Their goal is to purchase a product before other buyers for their users. They achieve this by having a faster speed than the human buyer.
So, they perform the same tasks humans will perform to buy a product — but significantly faster — to achieve the same goal. They end up buying the product out of stock, leaving nothing for the actual buyers.
Here’s a detailed guide to help you understand what are sneaker bots in great depth. It focuses on the working of bots to help you identify them and keep your site protected from them. Understanding their work is key to avoiding them.
How Do Sneaker Bots Work?
Sneaker bots mimic the human behavior of a purchase. Just as a human would, they visit the website and perform automated tasks such as checking inventory, honing in on the product, putting it in the shipping cart, filling the forms, and checking out.
Sneaker bots are available as browser extensions, automated browsers, or headless browsers. Most don’t even require coding skills. All a user needs to do is fill in their parameters such as the URL of the product, shoe size, and payment method.
The bot takes care of the operation itself. If connected with a messaging platform, the sneaker bot will also send users notifications regarding their purchases. These bots can also bypass CAPTCHAS by having the user solve them or integrate the API of a CAPTCHA farm.
How Do Sneaker Bots Affect a Business?
There are several ways sneaker bots negatively impact your business. Some of the most prominent ones are:
Sneaker bots bring a huge amount of bot traffic to your website which makes it slower and clogs up operations. It makes it difficult for actual human users to navigate the website and make purchases as the site is already swamped with unwanted traffic.
Make the Product Go Out of Stock
Sneaker bots purchase the product so rapidly and make it go out of stock as soon as it goes live. It has the dual negative impact of making your actual customers grow frustrated that they couldn’t get their hands on the product and garnering you negative publicity.
Since the bots work so fast, many companies are not even able to make out what is happening before the product is out of stock. It’s especially damaging to your reputation after you’ve advertised the launch and got customers excited about it.
Bot Users Resell the Product
Perhaps the most detrimental way sneaker bots damage a company is what their users do with all the purchased merchandise. They resell the items at a higher price illegally. This is extremely damaging to you as a business.
You spend time and resources advertising the launch of a highly exclusive product and garner all the public interest. But at the time of release, sneaker bots make the product go out of stock only to resell it at a higher price.
This not only harms your reputation, but it’s also a monetary loss to your brand. Customers who are excited about the product may succumb to the offer of the bots and end up purchasing them from there, making you lose even more sales.
How Do Sneakers Stay Undetected?
Detecting sneaker bots on your website is a challenging task. Their developers imbue them with elements that bypass general detection traps. We talked about the CAPTCHA bypassing by having the users solve the riddles.
Additionally, they give the bot browser-like features to make your website identify the bot as a regular browser visiting it. These include HTTP fingerprints, forged user agents, and deleted navigators. They also mimic human behavior.
Now, if they simply visit the website and buy the product absurdly quickly, they will be identified as a bot. They understand that they only need to be faster than humans. So, they follow realistic mouse movements, touch screen behaviors, and keystrokes to make the website think they’re just fast humans.
Identifying Sneaker Bots
52% of all web traffic comes from bots. Some are good bots that you need for your business. You simply cannot shut out all bot traffic to protect yourself from sneaker bots. You need to identify them to keep them at bay.
Use the method of fingerprinting to collect signals and detect advanced bots. This will help you identify advanced browsers as well such as modified Puppeteer and headless Chrome. These claim to bypass bot detection systems and will not see you coming.
Another option is to conduct an advanced IP reputation analysis. This option relies on historical data to identify IPs that are usually used by bots. Machine learning can also be used to identify whether the behavior exhibited by a user is human or not.
Protecting your Website from Sneaker Bots
The ideal way to tackle sneaker bots is to block or hard block them as soon as you identify them. Here are some tips for comprehensive bot protection:
Look out for Known Bot Traffic
Human visitors will ideally be using the up-to-date versions of browsers and apps while bots are notorious for using outdated versions. As a protection measure, set your CAPTCHA test to show browsers that are not updated in two years.
You may even go ahead and block browsers that have not been updated in three years. Similarly, traffic from data centers is often attributed to sneaker bots. To tackle this, you can block IP addresses from known data centers, such as Digital Oceans, OVH Hosting, GigeNET, and Choopa.
Bot Mitigation Software
Having bot mitigation software allows you to deal with all the suspected traffic you have identified. These actions include testing them with CAPTCHA tests, limiting their actions, and soft blocking or hard blocking them.
Some sneaker bots will always get through the most strict safety nets and make purchases anyway. To identify these tenacious bots, you will need to deploy some after-sale audits to your orders. Take a look at your order and look for the following things:
- If there are multiple orders made by the same IP address.
- If multiple orders are being shipped to the same address.
- If the same credit card is being used by multiple customers.
- If there is any social media chatter about bots being used for your sale.
If you find these instances, it’s a strong indicator of bots being used in your limited edition sale. You can take further action on these orders by contacting the customer and confirming their purchase.
Understand the Working of Sneaker Bots to Detect them and Safeguard your Website Against Them
Sneaker bots can damage the reputation of your company by buying limited edition products in hoards and leaving your customers hanging.
They are often challenging to detect, so, you need to deploy advanced tactics such as fingerprinting and advanced IP analysis to identify them as soon as possible. Once identified, you can monitor their movement or block them to keep them at bay.
Bot mitigation software solutions and web traffic management specifically garnered toward bot activity are also handy solutions to tackle sneaker bots. Let us know in the comments how you think businesses can protect their websites from sneaker bots.