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An Internet bot, in its most generic sense, is software that performs an automated task over the Internet. More specifically, a bot is an automated application used to perform simple and repetitive tasks that would be time-consuming, mundane or impossible for a human to perform.
Bots can be used for productive tasks, but they are also frequently used for malicious purposes.
The term "bot" comes from robot. An Internet bot may also be known as a Web robot or WWW robot.
One of the best examples of a good bot is a search engine spider. Such bots troll the Web and index new pages for a search engine. Other examples include the original Internet relay chat bots and chatterbots.
Malicious bots are typically blended threats that come as part virus/worm, part bot and are used in a identity theft or to launch denial of service attacks. This is especially prevalent in a botnet, which is a grouping of computers that are all infected with a malicious bot. Other illegal, or at least questionable uses, involve bots that harvest email addresses for spam, scrape content or manipulate comments/votes on sites that allow user feedback.
A gray area also exists where bots are used by websites to promote shopping deals. In such cases, a bot will perform much like a search engine spider to index information about products on the Web. Some e-commerce sites take steps to ban shopping bots of this type, while their creators feel that they are simply providing a better service to their own users.