Best bot protection software

Bot protection software services are also known as bot management systems. This type of tool detects automated communications.

Bots are used for DDoS attacks against Web assets and they are also used for creating spam emails. Both of these activities are annoying, time-consuming, and wasteful.

Bots are annoying but they are part of business life today and it would be impossible to conduct any business over the internet without encountering them. Therefore, it is necessary to put in place bot protection systems

Here is our list of the seven best bot protection software packages:

  1. Cloudflare Bot Manager EDITOR’S CHOICE A bot blocker from a very large network that is often offered for free to new website owners through their hosting service. The Cloudflare package also includes a content delivery network. This is a cloud-based service.
  2. DataDome This cloud-based traffic assessment system offers pass or fail advice to your Web server and also performs vulnerability scanning.
  3. Reblaze Bot Management A cloud-based proxy server that filters requests with speed as its key selling point.
  4. Radware Bot Manager This is a plug-in that assesses each connection request and returns an accept or reject signal to your Web server.
  5. Trustifi Inbound Shield An email spam blocker that also scans for phishing and malware. This is a cloud-based system.
  6. SpamTitan This spam bot protection system is available as a SaaS platform or as a network appliance and monitors outgoing email as well as the inbound mail.
  7. Mailwasher An on-premises email protection system that intercepts mail between the server and the client. Runs on Windows or Linux.

Bot blocking

Step one in bot protection is to identify traffic that originated from a botnet or a spam email server. Several strategies can be implemented to spot bot activity but one of the most effective lies with shared intelligence platforms that create lists of known bot IP addresses.

Some blacklists are maintained by non-profit organizations, while others are compiled privately y large cybersecurity businesses that offer spam filters and DDoS protection. In the latter instance, the security provider adds to its blacklist each time it detects suspicious activities deriving from a previously unlisted address.

Botnet blockers that prevent attacks on websites use three basic strategies:

  • Blacklists
  • Activity tracking
  • Challenges

Email spam filters are similar, only as email is not as interactive as website access, challenges aren’t possible so the systems they use are:

  • Blacklists
  • Threat intelligence feeds
  • Content scanning

Blacklists are a form of threat intelligence. They are contributed to by many different organizations and identify the IP addresses that are the sources of bot activity. Some businesses, such as games servers operate their blacklist strategies and will block entire ranges of IP addresses, often locking out innocent visitors whose IP addresses just happen to fall within the currently-blocked range.

Banning ranges of IP addresses is an example of an unsuccessful bot protection strategy. Bot protection aims to weed out malicious traffic while allowing genuine transactions through seamlessly.

By the measure of seamless access, challenges aren’t very effective either. The general public gets annoyed by those “I am not a robot” checkboxes and the demand to identify pictures of boats or traffic lights. However, as this method is now so prevalent, the public has become used to the inconvenience.

There are more sophisticated systems available.

The best bot protection software

What should you look for in a bot protection system? 

We reviewed the market for bot protection software and analyzed the tools based on the following criteria:

  • A strategy that can block bot traffic without disturbing genuine visitors
  • A system that combines bot protection with other system security measures
  • A service that pre-filters traffic for bot protection
  • A threat intelligence network that spots new campaigns
  • Rapid action
  • A free trial, a money-back guarantee, or a demo for a no-risk assessment opportunity
  • Good value for money from an efficient service at a fair price

The key to both botnet blocking and spam filtering is the blacklist. Any strategy that allows valid traffic through without delay is preferable. With these selection criteria in mind, we looked for cloud-based systems that have scalable pricing structures and operate quickly.

1. Cloudflare Bot Manager

cloudflare block page

Cloudflare has a free tier and it has gained a big market advantage by promoting that free service through Web hosting providers. The Cloudflare system serves more than 28 million HTTP requests per second.

Web servers that are protected by Cloudflare get all of their incoming requests diverted to the Cloudflare servers instead. Cloudflare simultaneously offers a content delivery network (CDN) so in most cases, not only will the system filter out bot traffic but it will deliver web pages to genuine requestors. The CDN speeds up the delivery of Web pages by directing requests to data services that are geographically close to the requestor. Thus, the requested content doesn’t have to travel very far.

Key Features:

  • Widely-used
  • DDoS absorption
  • Internal blacklist
  • Fingerprinting
  • Fast processing

The Cloudflare blacklist operates on several layers of checks. This takes into account the fact that most Web users don’t have a fixed IP address so just blocking traffic to an address punishes people for the actions of the previous users of the address. To do this, the service uses a technique called browser fingerprinting, which goes beyond the characteristics of the browser and checks on a range of factors, such as the operating system version and computer’s identifiers.

Cloudflare can also spot bots used for content scraping and credentials stuffing. It can identify inventory hoarding activity in shopping cart systems and spam emails. The basic Cloudflare plan is Free and that also includes a free SSL certificate. Larger businesses will need the capacity and extra features offered by the three paid plans.

Pros:

  • Ubiquitous Web protection service
  • Packages offer bot protection for a range of automated attacks
  • Includes a spam filter for an email
  • Incorporated into a content delivery network
  • Offers e-commerce protection

Cons:

  • Checks can sometimes take a long time

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Cloudflare Bot Management is our top pick for a bot protection software package because it is packaged in with a  bundle of useful Web management services. Your Web server will only be accessed by the Cloudflare system checking for updates. All other requests for your Web pages will be delivered directly from the Cloudflare data centers. As no one can get to your Web server, there is no way any bot traffic can harm it. Cloudflare was one of the first DDoS protection services and its comprehensive free starter package is so far ahead of the competition that rivals struggle to compete with it.

Get started for free: https://www.cloudflare.com/plans/free/

Operating system: Cloud-based

2. DataDome

DataDome

DataDome is an AI-based bot protection system that rates requests rather than filtering them. This service is particularly active at protecting mobile apps and APIs. The Data Dome system works with your Web server instead of replacing it. By use of a plug-in, your Web server acquires access to the DataDome assessment engine. This issues a pass or fails instruction to your server for each incoming request. Each assessment takes about 2 milliseconds.

This traffic analysis system can block DDoS attacks, scraping, account takeover, and credentials stuffing. It also operates as a vulnerability scanner.

Key Features:

  • Advises your Web server
  • Pass or fail instruction
  • Vulnerability scanner
  • Hacker attack blocker

The strategy of DataDome is agile and is less likely to cause access delays than the Cloudflare methodology. However, it is only suitable for businesses that have Web servers with a large capacity because it doesn’t pre-filter traffic and so doesn’t reduce the load on Web servers under attack.

There are three plans for DataDome: Business, Corporate, and Enterprise. All of them are considerably more expensive than Cloudflare’s plans, so this is only a solution that would be considered by large corporations. You can assess DataDome with a 30-day free trial.

Pros:

  • Lets you retain control over Web delivery
  • Includes system hardening
  • Activity logging and analysis features

Cons:

  • Won’t reduce traffic
  • Very expensive

3. Reblaze Bot Management

Reblaze Bot Management

Reblaze Bot Management has speed as its main selling point. It can process each incoming request in 0.5 milliseconds and legitimate users won’t notice any delay when accessing a website that is defended by the Reblaze bot protection system.

Reblaze operates a proxy server. The worldwide DNS records for your website get altered so that all requests go to the Reblaze system instead of to your Web server. Reblaze then checks through every incoming request and drops those that are malicious. Only genuine requests get forwarded to your Web server over a secure VPN connection. This service greatly reduces the load on your system.

It receives your web traffic and filters it, passing on only legitimate users. The processing of each connection request takes only 0.5 milliseconds.

Key Features:

  • Fast processing
  • DDoS absorption
  • Screening

Despite being fast, the Reblaze filtering strategy is not brief. It passes through four phases that include profiling and behavior analysis. This is a very sophisticated bot protection service from a platform that also offers a Web application firewall, a content delivery network, account takeover protection, and compliance reporting.

The Reblaze platform includes a cloud-based dashboard that displays live traffic performance data and also offers attack analysis services. The information given by the dashboard can also be useful for market analysis because it shows aggregated data about the source of your genuine traffic and factors such as the time of the day that sees the most activity. You can assess Reblaze with a 30-day free trial.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive traffic validation
  • Activity logging and traffic analysis
  • Identifies different types of bot traffic

Cons:

  • Pricelist kept secret

4. Radware Bot Manager

Radware Bot Manager

Radware Bot Manager has a name that is similar to Reblaze but an operating methodology that is similar to that of DataDome. Radware takes a connection request as input and assesses it. It then passes a signal back that informs the server whether to accept or reject the connection.

The Radware system modifies its assessments over time by using the AI methodology of machine learning. As each request is processed, its characteristics are noted. Thus, the Radware system will adjust its assessments according to that pattern of activity regularly experienced by that Web server.

Key Features:

  • AI-based assessments
  • Pass or fail response
  • Plug-in to Web servers

Radware offers several bot protection options, which include a reCAPTCHA challenge and a defense response that sends back fake data to suspicious sources to confound bot controllers.

Radware also produces a Web application firewall. There is an option to host the Radware system on your site as a virtual appliance. Radware Bot Manager is available on a 30-day free trial.

Pros:

  • Traffic source assessment
  • Adaptable responses
  • Attack back option

Cons:

  • Malicious traffic still reaches your Web server

5. Trustifi Inbound Shield

Trustifi Inbound Shield

Trustifi Inbound Shield is an email detection system that identifies messages originating from spambots and also scans for malware. The system is hosted in the cloud and you integrate it into your email system through the use of a plug-in. The service also provides a scanner that plugs into mail client software. The bot protection system can be applied to your on-site email servers and also Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.

Trustifi will block spam, phishing emails, and bulk emails. The system operates blacklists to quickly block emails from known spambots and it also applies AI to look at the likelihood that an email is genuine. This utility can catch impersonation attempts that are used in typical business email compromise (BEC) attempts. You can also catch account takeover with this tool.

Key Features:

  • Spambot protection
  • Account takeover and impersonation detection
  • Malware scans

The system scans emails and their attachments for malicious code. It also checks any links that it encounters and removes them if they lead to infected or fake Web pages. Suspicious emails and attachments will be quarantined for manual inspection.

You can request a demo to assess Trustifi Inbound Shield.

Pros:

  • Checks for spam, phishing, impersonation, and account takeover
  • Scans for malware and malicious links
  • Integrates with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace

Cons:

  • No free trial

6. SpamTitan

SpamTitan

SpamTitan is an email filtering service that tracks both incoming and outgoing emails. The system offers bot protection when examining incoming emails and data loss prevention when handling outgoing mail.

Bot protection systems include a blacklist of known spam sources plus searches for keywords that indicate known spam or phishing campaign texts. The service will also scan for spoofing. Other actions in the inbound filter include link checking and malware detection.

Key Features:

  • Spambot blacklist
  • Phishing and impersonation detection
  • Malware blocking

The system will hold back suspicious emails for manual inspection. The service can also be used to implement custom email blocks by defining a list of words to detect in email contents. The SpamTitan system uses behavior analytics to identify impersonation attempts and account takeovers.

SpamTitan is offered as an appliance and it is also available as a cloud service. If you use Microsoft 365, you can get a SpamTitan plug-in to integrate the bot protection system. SpamTitan is available for a 30-day free trial.

Pros:

  • Scans incoming and outgoing emails
  • On-premises or cloud deployment options
  • Includes data loss prevention

Cons:

  • Doesn’t integrate with Gmail

7. Mailwasher

MailWasher

Mailwasher is an on-premises email management system that includes bot protection systems. There are two operating models of Mailwasher. One works in the email client and the other integrates into the email server.

A disadvantage of the Mailwasher deployment model is that it allows malicious emails onto your system before they can be checked. Cloud-based systems have the attraction of preventing that contact. However, some small business owners are suspicious of cloud services and prefer to keep their systems in-house. If that is the case with you, Mailwasher could be a good solution.

Key Features:

  • On-premises software
  • Choice of email client or server protection
  • Free version

Mailwasher Pro plugs into email clients and is compatible with Outlook, Outlook Express, Incredimail, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, EM Client, and Yahoo. This version only runs on Windows. Mailwasher Server is available for Windows and Linux.

Both systems use a blacklist system and they bounce back emails from spambots as though the email address was malformed. The Mailwasher Free edition is the same as Mailwasher Pro but it is limited for use with one email address.

You can get a 30-day free trial of Mailwasher Pro and Mailwasher Server.

Pros:

  • Low-cost system for small businesses
  • Allows emails to be sandboxed and previewed
  • Malware blocker

Cons:

  • Not suitable for large businesses