Over the past year, you’ve likely heard about bots and their influence on the election and the world as a whole. As awareness about the need for competent cybersecurity increases, it is imperative that we continue to learn and understand modern technology and how it’s being used.
Robots Are the New Soldiers of Cyberwarfare
For centuries, warfare has been a human-versus-human conflict that adapts and leverages technological advances. As we’ve seen recently, cyberwarfare is a new threat and it could put humans against machines.
The vision of soldiers as we know them – in fatigues and on the ground – is beginning to change. The face of a soldier today no longer exists in just three dimensions. The today’s soldier can theoretically be a robot, ever evolving and improving.
What Are Bots?
Internet robots, commonly known as bots, are software programs that run automated tasks using the internet. Bots are programmed to perform various tasks faster than a human, and they can be programmed to interact with humans.
As technology has advanced, many of the newer interactive bots are anthropomorphic by design to imitate our habits and behavior. These newer bots can speak in realistic voices, follow sleep patterns, adapt to shifts in language and use slang.
Bots Can Talk
In their most simplistic form, bots communicate via text. Known as chatbots or chatterbots, these basic bots simulate a typed conversation. Chatbots can be accessed via instant messaging platforms, within an application, on a website, or through a device.
SmarterChild was a famous chatbot on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), that responded to questions or comments when prompted and wrote like a human.
Bots Can Assist
Found in homes and pockets across the world, Siri, Alexa and Google Home are arguably the most famous bots. Two of these three bots have been prescribed human names, and in order to activate the program, you need to “wake it up.”
These bots are often referred to as virtual assistants, as they perform an automated service or process. Similar to chatbots, assistant bots respond only when prompted. Virtual assistants incorporate chatbot features – such as Alexa responding to your question about the weather – but respond via a voice-user interface and/or text. These bots are a driving force behind the acceleration to automate customer service functions and simplify life for consumers.
Bots Can Be Social
The bots mentioned in the news are often social bots – bots that are customized to use social media platforms. There are Facebook bots, Twitter bots, Instagram bots, Snap bots, Slack bots, the list goes on and on. Bots can be created to use various platforms in all sorts of ways, and they often incorporate chatbot or assistant bot features. However, the social bots in the news are frequently bots on Facebook and Twitter that behave as native users. They often run scripts to post content, and imitate human posting habits and writing styles.
When bots are used on social media platforms, they have the potential to create or promote viral content. In my next blog, How Bots Are Deployed, we’ll explore bot methodology and the positive and negative impacts of their use. We’ll also look at bots and the future, and how knowing the various bot types and how they’re employed is crucial to our understanding of how to prepare for the future.