Nearly half (48 per cent) of the total global internet traffic in the first half of 2023 was made up of bots, and most of this was due to bad bots, a new report showed on Thursday.

According to cloud-enabled security solutions provider Barracuda Network, these complex computer programmes are designed to cause mischief and harm, at speeds and volumes that human attackers could not match. 

Bots are software programmes that move around the web performing automated tasks like search engine crawling. 

Armed with millions of common usernames and passwords, the bad bots are being distributed across the internet with the goal of compromising email accounts -- particularly those accessible via vulnerable application programming interfaces (APIs) -- by repeatedly trying different combinations of usernames and passwords until they find one that works, the report said. 

"For the organisations targeted by these bots, a combination of under-secured APIs, weak authentication and access policies, and a lack of bot-specific security measures -- such as limiting the volume and speed of inbound traffic leaves them vulnerable to attack," said Tushar Richabadas, Principal Product Marketing Manager, Applications and Cloud Security at Barracuda. According to the report, APIs are a growing target for cyberattacks because they are relatively under-protected and used extensively for automated processes and communications. 

Email marketing applications that send and track bulk or personalised emails to potential or existing customers, as well as applications to manage, verify, and automate emails, are examples of applications that use APIs to access emails and inboxes. 

The report also showed that in the first half of 2023, North America was the source of 72 per cent of bad bot traffic. Roughly two-thirds (67 per cent) of bad bot traffic came from hosting providers, including the two large public clouds -- AWS and Azure, which skews the geographic data toward North America. The next most prevalent regions are the UAE (12 per cent), Saudi Arabia (6 per cent), Qatar (5 per cent), and India (5 per cent).