Ever wonder about the true impact of global web traffic and engagement you see on “viral” content? Online web traffic data analytics around the world has exhibited a mark uptick in statistical volume during this decade.
It is because a great deal of global website traffic nowadays is not actually human, but rather the traffic is generated through automated bots. In fact, less than half of global web traffic is actually human, amounting to just 44 percent of online website engagement of content.
As Incapsula’s prior annual reports have shown, “bots are the Internet’s silent majority. Behind the scenes, billions of these software agents shape our web experience by influencing the way we learn, trade, work, let loose, and interact with each other online.”
Photo Credit: Incapsula
However, “bots are also often also designed for mischief. In fact, many of them are used for some kind of malicious activity—including mass-scale hack attacks, DDoS floods, spam schemes, and click fraud campaigns,” Incapsula reports.
According to Incapsula’s 2014 Global Bot Traffic Report, based on a sample of 15 bots and human visits over a 90 day period, from August 2, 2014 to October 30, 2014, including 1.5 billion visits collected from 20,000 websites, having a minimum daily traffic count of at least 10 human visitors in nearly 250 countries worldwide, 56% of website traffic can be traced back to bots that automatically browse websites for different purposes.
Over half or about 27 percent of all automated traffic comes from good bots, such as search engine crawlers that index a website’s content. The other half of automated traffic is malicious in nature.
A large portion of the online robotic maliciousness is caused by impersonators at 22 percent, content scrapers at 3 percent, hackers at 3.5 percent, and spammers at about a half of a percent. Most of this malicious non-human traffic is used to steal data, spam websites or crash them (or worse yet, shut them down).
What Google does not readily reveal to you is over a third of your global website traffic can harm your business and e-commerce therein, because of unwanted, unforeseen even malicious outreach and engagements through your brand.
By comparison, Incapsula’s 2013 Global Bot Traffic Report, based on a sample of 15 bots and human visitors over a 90 day period, including 1.45 billion visits collected from 20,000 websites in nearly 250 countries worldwide, about 61.5% of website traffic could be traced last year back to automatic bots, browsing websites for various reasons.
About 31 percent of all automated traffic originated last year from good bots, like search engine crawlers that trace a website’s content. The remaining 30.5 percent of automated traffic was malicious in 2013. The vast portion of the online robotic malware last year was caused by impersonators at 20.5 percent, content scrapers at 5 percent, hackers at 4.5 percent, and spammers at about a half of a percent.
Impersonators and hackers are highest risk malicious non-human affects on all websites, causing downtime, data theft, site/server hijjacking, and degradation of service. Impersonator bots are the most malicious and dangerous non-human web traffic, growing from 19% in 2012, to 20.5% in 2013, and now 22% in 2014.
Content scrapers are low-risk malicious bot attacks on e-commerce websites, creating content theft, reverse engineering of pricing and business models. Spammers have low-risk automatic bot impact on all websites, producing comment spams, phishing links and search engine blacklisting.
What Incapsula learned is that “smaller websites tend to get a higher percentage of bot visitors, where such access accounts for approximately 60 percent to 80 percent of all traffic.” Specifically, small websites, having 10-1000 visits per day, receive 80.5 percent bot traffic compared to only 19.5 percent human traffic. Medium websites with 1000-10,000 visits per day receive 63.2 percent bot traffic as opposed to 36.8 percent human traffic.
On the other side of the scale, larger websites, featuring 10,000-100,000 visits per day, have 56.2 percent of their large traffic from automatic bots, as opposed to 43.8 percent of their traffic coming from humans. Extremely large websites, like those having 100 thousand to more than a million visits per day, draw 52.3 percent of their volume from automatic bot traffic in contrast to 47.7 percent of the overall traffic originating from humans.
Photo Credit: Incapsula
Incapsula believes that “malicious bot traffic grows generally in proportion to a site’s human traffic. While larger sites are assaulted by many more malicious bots, the overall risk factor is the same for every website owner; roughly one in three visitors is a malicious agent.” In other words, not all automatic bots are seen as equal nor are they created as equal, and like matter, neither good or bad bots are destroyed, they are just transformed into your website traffic and data analytics.
Specifically, small websites, having ten to a thousand visits per day, receive 49.1 percent “good bot” traffic, such as search engine crawlers that index a website’s content, compared to only 31.4 percent “bad bot” traffic, which is malicious in nature, like impersonators, content crawlers, hackers and spammers. Medium websites with thousand to ten thousand visits per day receive 32.9 percent good bot traffic as opposed to 30.3 percent bad bot traffic.
On the other side of the coin, larger websites, featuring ten thousand to a hundred thousand visits per day, have 27.2 percent of their large traffic from good automatic bots, as opposed to 29 percent of their traffic coming from bad automatic bots. Extremely large websites, like those having 100 thousand to more than a million visits per day, draw in 25.1 percent of their volume from good automatic bot traffic in contrast to 27.2 percent of the overall traffic originating from bad automatic bots.
Photo Credit: Incapsula
Implications on Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure
Corporate America is increasingly alarmed and concerned about cybersecurity and data breaches, including digital assaults and attacks from malicious automatic bots, which I discussed further in a recent LinkedIn article entitled, “Digital Assaults are Defeating Our Digital Devices.”
All we need is one’s zip code, gender, and date of birth to identify 87 percent of the population inside the United States. As ‘big data’ gets bigger and ‘cloud-streaming’ fills our sky, digital assaults from malicious bots are destroying our digital devices at alarming rates. Cyber-attacks, terrorism, interstate conflict, natural and man-made disasters, healthcare services and economic assaults are the top five global threats to American and international security.
Make no mistake access to our information is easy nowadays. How vulnerable are we to cyber-security attacks and assaults?
“Cyber-assaults on the nation’s critical infrastructure are on the rise at alarming rates,” I said to Government Security News.
Massachusetts-based store, TJ Max, shocked consumers, when it first disclosed back in 2007 that hackers and digital bots had gained access to more than 45 million credit and debit card accounts. Seven years later in 2014, five major digital assaults by hackers and scammers have infected secured data systems at retail stores, hotel chains, and even Internet services, like Zappos, Yahoo, and LinkedIn.
A British telecom company now has a corporate policy it will no longer make Yahoo Mail the default email service for its 6 million customers after hackers and spammers with malicious bots and malware infected too many customers with their online worms, spiders, and roaches. Yahoo Mail has been “plagued by security vulnerabilities, and many customers have been under assault from hackers. They have complained of an increase in spam sent to their contacts and being locked out of their accounts by hackers who hijacked their passwords.”
From huge retailers, like Target, wherein hackers hit 40 million credit and debit card accounts in December 2013, to Home Depot, where scammers breached 56 million consumer credit accounts in September 2014, and even recently your neighborhood corner ice cream shop, Dairy Queen, major firms have had major online data security breaches affecting consumers of corporate firms’ products and services.
Go Local has compiled a list of ten major security breaches, which is also summarized here, that have occurred that you need to stay closely aware of so you can continue to protect yourself as consumers, because such security breaches are rising and continuing.
FOX Business reports, President Barack Obama said cyber terrorism is an enormous threat to national security. He adds the White House is bracing for a “possible doomsday scenario,” if hackers and scammers successfully permeate government and business computer systems or breach security firewalls at major banks. The president was sharing his thoughts on cyber terrorism recently at a fundraiser in New York City and a stop in Greenwich Connecticut.
“The president is worried that cyber criminals could literally wipe out the identities of millions of people through some breach of government systems and that could lead to massive chaos,” persons attending the events told FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino, breaking the White House candid revelation here.
President Obama said it “would take Bonnie and Clyde a thousand years to do what three people in a room with a server can now do.” Such hackers and scammers“could steal $100 million” in a relatively short time. They might be able to someday “take down the banking system,” if the nation’s cyber security does not improve, writes FOX Business.
The president said “15 years ago, cyber terrorism was not even on the radar screen, but that it will be one of the biggest concerns for whoever is president after him.” persons in attendance to the president’s events said to FOX Business.
“It’s not cyber war, it’s cyber terrorism, and I’m afraid the game is just beginning. Very soon, many countries around the world will know it beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Eugene Kaspersky told reporters at a Tel Aviv University cyber security conference.
Kaspersky stern warning came after researchers at Kaspersky Lab unearthed Flame, possibly the most complex infrastructure-sabotaging computer worm ever.
Flame attacks Windows operating systems and is capable of recording audio via a microphone, taking screen shots, turning Bluetooth-enabled computers into beacons to download names and phone numbers from other Bluetooth enabled devices.
“Software that manages industrial systems or transportation or power grids or air traffic must be based on secure operating systems. Forget about Microsoft, Linux or Unix,” Kaspersky warns.
Kaspersky believes that it is essential to “view cyber weapons with the same seriousness as chemical, biological and even nuclear threats.”
United States, Britain, India, Israel, China and Russia are among the countries capable of developing anti-Flame software, which Kaspersky estimates cost $100 million to develop.
These top 5 nations are spending the most on the growth industry of cyber-terror and cyber-crime, as a percentage of GDP: Germany at 1.6%, Netherlands at 1.5%, United States and Norway each at 0.64%, and China at 0.63%, according to a 2014 report of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), sponsored by McAfee and Intel.
Bottom-line takeaway: Beware where you click, no matter what website you’re visiting or what social media you’re using!
Human “Dark Social” Referrals of Global Web Traffic
Dark Social refers to web traffic originating from consumers of online content that is shared from outside sources that cannot be tracked by widespread social media algorithm analytics that users more readily see “in the daylight” on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Dark Social happens when consumers share online content or a hyperlink by alternative means of communications, such as emails, group posts, or instant messages through mobile apps, and not through sharing mechanisms on a website page or social media platform. In other words, Dark Social is invisible sharing activity outside of conventional analytics of website traffic or social media algorithms.
Advertisers, content creators, publishers, and integrative marketers and distributors of content on social media platforms typically measure online traffic impact based on what they can see “in the daylight” on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn. However, it is the unmeasured “Dark Social” activity which dominates online sharing and traffic impact, accounting for an enormous 69 percent of all shares globally, according to data compiled by advertising network RadiumOne in its new 9,000-consumer study: “The Light and Dark of Social Sharing.”
Dark social is “one of the most valuable sources of data insights,” RadiumOne CEO Bill Lonergan says, and has “the potential to give brands a huge competitive edge.”
The study, which also used data from more than 900 million web users, says that 91 percent of Americans regularly share information via Dark Social, and almost a third — 27 percent — share only via Dark Social, never using Facebook or Twitter.
While Dark Social accounted for 69 percent of all shares globally in the RadiumOne study, Facebook shares amount to just 23 percent of all global sharing online. All other social platforms (including Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the rest) account for only 8 percent of all shares globally online.
“It can also have positive effects in the longer term, even giving a second wind to older content. Analyzing “Dark Social” can put the spotlight on content that may not have worked well upon its initial publication, but succeeded much later due to a particular context or current event. This information would allow a media group, for example, to promote more unique content without worrying that the content might fail,” content strategy expert, Bernard Segarra, concludes in his blog post.
Researchers believe what we say to each other in the dark online is perhaps more honest. This honesty may reveal more richer in depth information for advertisers and brands to learn about consumers of online content, if they can accurately access what goes on in the dark under more advanced cloaking devices of Dark Social communication technologies emerging.
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