Bot or human? It’s getting harder to tell

The saying goes: “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” But the more apt expression in this day and age might be “nobody knows you’re a bot.”

Bots are becoming increasingly human-like, which presents a significant challenge to security professionals, website owners and social media network operators seeking to distinguish malicious and inauthentic bot activity from the genuine article.
Tamer Hassan talks with SC Media about bots.

At the 2020 RSA conference, SC Media sat down for a podcast interview with Tamer Hassan, CEO and co-founder of anti-fraud and bot mitigation company White Ops, to discuss the growing underground market for bots-as-a-service, which can be used to spread disinformation, distribute spam containing malware, or even snatch up prized sneakers from e-commerce sites before real customers have a chance.

“If you can look like a million humans, what can you do? And the answer is: a lot of things, and it ranges from everything from account takeover and financial fraud to changing the popularity of something,” said Hassan. Bots have even been known to listen to (or feign listening to) music online, he added.

Hassan also discusses how he has been able to apply lessons from his time as a decorated combat search rescue helicopter pilot in the U.S. Air Force toward his current role at White Ops, and also explains why he thinks “Battlestar Galactica” is a perfect metaphor for bots that over time behave increasingly like their human counterparts.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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