IT Security Outsourced IT

Spam Bots

What are Spam Bots?

A spam bot is a computer application that executes repetitive tasks to help to spread spam across the Internet through spam messages. A spam bot may also post spam in various places where users interact online, such as on forums or social media platforms. Spam bots can create fake accounts on forums, social media platforms, messaging apps, or email hosting providers, sometimes disguising their activities by appearing as if they are real users. Since creating user accounts often only involves filling out a few fields (name, email address, etc.), attackers often program spam bots to fill out these forms automatically.1 Once spam bots have access to a platform, they will start deploying spam messages according to a predetermined set of rules established by the bot creator. The most common types of spam bots are:

Email spam bots. Before spammers can deploy email spam bots, they need a database of email addresses. This is often accomplished through email harvesting, where bots scan webpages looking for text that is an email format (with an @ symbol); they collect these and add them to a database. They may also purchase lists of email addresses on the Dark Web or steal legitimate databases from organizations. Once the spammers have a database of email addresses, they deploy spam emails with the intention of spreading malware or phishing. Spammers may use a technique called email spoofing to make it appear as if their emails come from legitimate sources.

Comment spam bots. Comment spam appears in the user-generated comments section of a website. Some spam bots look for and post in comments sections that don’t require a user account for participation in a thread, such as on forums that do not have verification for checking if a commenter is a human user. Bots can create fake user accounts and leave comments, automating the process of promoting and publishing spam.

Social media spam bots. Social media spam bots are popular on social media because there are billions of potential victims there. A social media spam bot can infect a messaging app and act like a typical chatbot. Social media spam bots can create fake accounts and misleading posts, often promoting deals, free items, fake offers, fake news, adult contents, or they may simply share links to promote websites. Social media spam bots can also steal personal data and credentials to breach and hijack real users’ accounts. A social media spam bot typically manages to take over a social media profiles through credential stuffing, which is a cyberattack that uses stolen or breached credentials and other data to hack into accounts.

Protect yourself from spam bots by:

  • Adding Google reCAPTCHA
  • Using spam bot protection software
  • Using email validation
  • Blocking suspicious IPs
  • Employing WHOIS privacy protection
  • Not clicking on links or attachments with spelling or grammar mistakes, incredible deals, urgent calls to action, unexpected messages, irrelevant messages, odd conversations, or other suspicious communications

1 Cloudflare, 2023, “What is a spam bot? How spam comments and spam messages spread”