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bots automated intrudersBots are everywhere. As every aspect of society becomes more dependent on technology, these automated programs have become increasingly important in our everyday lives. Bots help social media companies curate user feeds and search engines rank search results. Digital “personal assistants” have automated travel booking and the processing of expense accounts. Bots add value by facilitating the execution of online tasks at speeds and scales unreachable by human users.

But the ubiquity of bots has a dark side, threatening both governmental and commercial institutions. Russian actions during the 2016 U.S. election put a spotlight on the negative effects of bots, which were used to flood social media feeds with propaganda intended to influence voters. Bots are also used for an array of market-damaging practices, including the exploitation of new account promotions, the fraudulent reservation of blocks of airline seats, website slowdowns, distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), rogue online reviews, content scraping, and other harmful practices. Bots are particularly threatening to businesses with an online presence because they can extract value and information from a company without consent.

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