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Scalper Bots and Its Presence in Our Life

Scalper Bots and Its Presence in Our Life
Scalper Bots and Its Presence in Our Life

Scalper Bots and Its Presence in Our Life

Scalping is one of the profitable businesses in existence and the modern iteration of scalping is bulk or automated buying of sought-after products/services using “scalper bots.”

Scalpers today use these bots to complete multiple bulk purchases in a fraction of the time than it would take a real user to complete one. Using this automated software, they position themselves at the start of the queue and snap up coveted items within seconds after they are released for sale. Scalpers use bots to look through famous retailer websites, event sites, and social media feeds to identify potential new launches. Scalpers create a pre-bot script can be run automatically to skim through multiple sites at once. They then set up an account before the official on sale date for a popular event/product launch and when the tickets go on sale the pre-bot will be waiting with valid credit card information in order to purchase as many tickets as possible. To avoid detection, the bots can be programmed to use different billing profiles for each purchase. More sophisticated scalper bots can bypass the CAPTCHA and other security measures. This data is then saved by the bot for future use. Once one of these bots has been identified as a “legitimate” user, it will be able to proceed quickly through the checkout process without having to retype information.

scalper bots and its presence in our life chatbot - Scalper Bots and Its Presence in Our Life

Not all bots are bad; some can be programmed to do helpful tasks such as providing chat support for businesses, find you a good product deal across multiple online platforms, etc.

Not all bots are bad; some can be programmed to do helpful tasks such as providing chat support for businesses, find you a good product deal across multiple online platforms, etc. “Bad” bots can also be programmed to steal your personal information, bulk purchase tickets for an event, etc. Scalpers mainly have targeted popular concerts, sporting events, and limited product launches. The practice of ticket scalping is something that goes back well before the Internet was around. The practice still continues, only now it is conducted online because of the digitization of ticket sales. Limited edition sneakers became the next huge market for scalpers. As of late, scalping has also emerged within luxury apparel and the electronics sector. For example, the chip shortage over the past year has resulted in a reduced supply of computer hardware, especially in regards to next-gen gaming consoles, like Xbox One and PS5, and graphic cards coveted by gamers requiring high-performance as well as crypto mining operations. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have become the latest playground for bots to make a profit on buying and reselling rare digital collectibles.

A few days ago, researchers from Akamai made a shocking discovery that of a new scalper bots in Israel where scalpers used bots to book appointments for government services then selling those services to paying citizens. As the pandemic comes to an end (?), vacation-hungry Israelis are itching to travel abroad, but securing an appointment has been very difficult. The Department of Interior, understaffed and unprepared, is completely inundated by a sudden spike in applications and appointments. At one point, the Foreign Ministry reportedly ran out of passports. MyVisit is a prominent booking service used by many Israeli government entities. To successfully secure an appointment for passport renewal, one would book an appointment on MyVisit, which opens new slots at 7 AM.

Many people waited for months and some even traveled across the country for their necessary appointments. To get around the problem, a few developers came up with an appointment scheduling bot, named GamkenBot. Preset with your contact information and preferred location, the appointment bot would rush the scheduling system, quickly finding and securing an available slot as soon as it opened. They released it to public use and they were widely commended and were hailed as the champions of the people in the battle against bureaucracy, albeit briefly.

scalper bots and its presence in our life bots - Scalper Bots and Its Presence in Our Life

As technology advances, increasingly complicated tasks can be automated and delegated to bots. While these bots spare us tedious efforts, they also present malevolent possibilities.

Disaster struck when some nefarious people began exploiting the well-meaning bot to scalp prized appointments and sell them to desperate citizens. Days after the launch of GamkenBot, a Telegram group was launched where it offered appointments not only for passport renewal, but also appointments for the Population Authority, Israel’s Electricity Corporation, the National Insurance, Israel Post, the Ministry of Transportation, and more.

The issue came to light when the Ministry of Interior had a backlog of over 700,000 applications with new appointments being booked almost immediately. Reportedly, each appointment was sold for more than $100. Scalping may have started out as quick way of making a buck out of a concert ticket, but in the recent times it has grown into a serious security threat across the globe. Trading essential government services like a commodity can have a much graver implication on national security researchers opine.

Bots can still enrich our lives and tedious tasks like booking appointments or tickets can be delegated to bots, but to put an end to the malevolent bots would require a more comprehensive solution as offered by bot-management products, using a variety of measures: from device fingerprinting, browser validation, and JavaScript challenges to advanced machine learning models that analyze and classify the data on the back end.

Links

How SCALPER BOTS Work! | 8-Bit Eric [Video]

Video uploaded by 8BE on December 30, 2020

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