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SMBs are facing increased cyberthreats from skyrocketing bot traffic

IT support team stood around a monitor
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cyberattacks against businesses doubled during 2021 compared to the year before with the main threat coming from bot traffic, according to new research from website security protection and monitoring company, SiteLock (opens in new tab).

Alongside tackling everyday cyberthreats using the best antivirus software (opens in new tab), SiteLock’s findings warn that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to do more as many are being targeted by growing numbers of automated cyberattacks.

Bot traffic appears to be the main culprit, accounting for 5.5 times the amount of human traffic during 2021 in comparison to 2020. Business websites (opens in new tab) were found to be seeing an average increase of 2,306 bot visits per site over the year before.

At the same time, SiteLock’s research indicated that while bot attacks had been increasing, volumes of human traffic had actually been decreasing. The findings reveal that malicious actors that employ bots to harvest their attacks had most success with SMB website (opens in new tab) owners who were largely oblivious to the threats.

Related: Best business antivirus.

Filehacker and Backdoor the biggest threats

SiteLock analyzed over 14 million websites in order to pin down the most prevalent cyberthreats. It identified Filehacker (opens in new tab), which accounted for 35 percent of websites being infected with malware and Backdoor (opens in new tab), responsible for 31 percent of attacks as being key offenders.

The research also highlighted that 93 percent of websites infected with malware (opens in new tab) had not been blacklisted, which equates to 9 out of 10 websites being missed by search engines. Websites are also being relentlessly attacked, around 172 times per day, with eight attacks occurring per minute.

The research suggests that around 4.1 million websites could now be affected with malware worldwide. Incredibly, 48 percent of SMB website owners still think they’re not big enough to be troubled by cyberthreats, despite half of them having already been breached.

The resulting advice from SiteLock is for businesses to ensure they have a comprehensive cybersecurity solution (opens in new tab) in place. Indeed, its own risk assessment tool can scrutinize the threat to SMB websites, analyzing over 500 variables and helping to prevent bad actors disrupting the everyday running of business websites (opens in new tab).

“While there are legitimate reasons for bots to visit a website like search engine crawlers and copyright scans, bots are also used for a variety of nefarious purposes. Malicious bots can programmatically visit websites and identify vulnerabilities in code to execute their attacks, such as stealing data or inserting malware,” said Jason Soroko at Sectigo, which owns SiteLock.

Secure your company's data with the best business antivirus.

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.