Beancounters at the security outfit Incapsula have added up all their numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that 61.5 percent of all website traffic is now generated by bots.
Incapsula said that was a 21 percent rise on last year’s figure where bots accounted for just over half of the traffic.
Some of these automated software tools are malicious but the biggest growth in traffic was for “good” bots which are used by search engines to crawl websites in order to index their content.
Other bots are used by analytics companies to provide feedback about how a site is performing, and by others to carry out other specific tasks such as helping the internet archive preserve content before it is deleted.
Incapsula said it observed 1.45 billion bot visits over a 90 day period from the 20,000 sites operated by its clients.
Despite the overall growth in bot activity, the firm said that many of the traditional malicious uses of the tools had become less common.
It said there had been a 75 percent drop in the frequency spam links were being automatically posted. The report thinks that this was due to Google’s crack down on frequency spam.
It also said it had seen a 10 percent drop in hacking tool bot activities, including the use of code to distribute malware, to steal credit cards and to hijack and deface websites.
One new trend was an eight percent increase in the use of “impersonator bots” – a classification including software that masquerades as being from a search engine or other legitimate agent in order to fool security measures.
These bots are custom-made to carry out a specific activity, such as a DDoS attack – forcing a server to crash taking a website or service offline by flooding it with traffic or to steal company secrets.
The rise of good bots indicated that because the legitimate services were sampling the net more frequently. This might, for example, allow a search engine to add breaking news stories to its results quicker.