Cloudflare is one of the most prominent names in cybersecurity especially because of Cloudflare CDN and its DDoS mitigation service.
Quite recently Cloudflare has launched a bot fighting service called Cloudflare Bot Management, and it’s now a pretty popular choice among other bot detection and filtration solutions. However, Cloudflare Bot Management is not a perfect solution with its own downsides, although it does offer some unique advantages.
Here, we will discuss the Cloudflare Bot Management platform, its pros and cons, and how it fares in blocking bad bots.
Cloudflare Bot Management
Cloudflare Bot Management is an all-in-one bot fighting solution by Cloudflare. It is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, so users who are not really tech-savvy won’t need to fine-tune it before you can use it.
Another unique feature is that it is also equipped with machine learning technology, and with Cloudflare’s experience and huge data sets accumulated over the years, it will translate into a really powerful machine learning-driven anti-bot solution.
Cloudflare utilizes three different bot detection methods with Cloudflare Bot Management:
. Behavioral Analysis:
analyzing behavior of incoming traffic and blocking suspicious activities. Cloudflare does this by first determining your typical traffic (the baseline) and scoring every request based on the deviation from this baseline.
. Machine Learning:
Cloudflare teaches the Bot Management with its curated data set of hundreds of billions of requests per day (from Cloudflare’s clients), so it will get better and better at scoring each request.
. Fingerprinting (Heuristic or Signature-Based):
Cloudflare uses fingerprinting from 20 million+ internet properties to differentiate bots from legitimate users. Cloudflare uses a
With that being said, there are two key benefits of using Cloudflare Bot Management compared to other similar solutions:
- Cloudflare’s large training data set, allowing a better machine learning compared to other competitors. Cloudflare has millions of requests from millions of clients’ websites as its training set. Meaning, Cloudflare’s Bot Management’s machine learning is potentially better than most of its competitors
- Edge computing allows Cloudflare Bot Management to reduce latency and results in faster detection and overall performance. Cloudflare’s huge user base means a massive number of requests are being processed and scored every single second. By pushing the machine results to the edge network, results can be evaluated at the edge rather than the origin to minimize latency. This also prevents uncached requests from impacting the server CPU.
Cloudflare Bot Management: Weaknesses
Although as we have discussed above, Cloudflare Bot Management is a very powerful and versatile bot detection solution. However, as with any other technologies, it is not a perfect solution and has at least three key disadvantages over its competitors’:
- Cloudflare Bot Management requires you to use the Cloudflare CDN. While Cloudflare CDN is a very good and popular CDN, it is still a limitation. Also, this will also mean that you can’t use multi-cloud and multi-CDN setups.
- Although Cloudflare Bot Management does offer a behavioral-based analysis, it is still based on validation challenges (technical detection) combined with heuristic (fingerprinting). These approaches might not be enough for today’s very sophisticated 4th-gen bots.
- Cloudflare Bot Management still suffers from issues related to false positives where legitimate users are blocked instead of malicious bots.
Depending on your needs, these three weaknesses of Cloudflare Bot Management might or might not be the dealbreaker.
Cloudflare Bot Management Alternatives
Due to the three key disadvantages above, many businesses and IT security experts are opting for more advanced, Cloudflare Bot Management alternatives like DataDome.
DataDome, for instance, offers its solutions for the three key issues of Cloudflare Bot Management discussed above, namely:
- DataDome can integrate itself with multi-CDN and multi-cloud setups. DataDome is not limited to Cloudflare CDN, so it’s much more versatile in integrating with your existing and future systems.
- Real-time behavioral detection and bot blocking. Unlike Cloudflare Bot Management that relies on heuristic and validation (score-based) detection, DataDome analyzes the behaviors of malicious bot activities in real-time so it is much more effective in detecting the activities of 4th-gen bots that are very sophisticated in mimicking human behaviors like performing non-linear mouse movements, humanlike clicking and typing behaviors, etc.
- . Real-time false-positive prevention.DataDome offers a false positive rate of below 0.01%, so it is much better than Cloudflare in identifying and preventing false positives.
DataDome also uses AI and machine learning technologies in its detection function, but it works in a different manner compared to Cloudflare Bot Management. DataDome, unlike Bot Management, compares every single incoming request to the website’s baseline with a massive in-memory pattern database, and decides within less than 2 milliseconds whether it is a bot or a legitimate human user. This technology allows DataDome to have a much lower false positive.
Similar to Cloudflare Bot Management, DataDome also analyzes billions of daily requests and teaches itself continuously to identify new (zero-day) threats.
Another factor to consider is the fact that DataDome offers more customizability regarding the AI’s response decision. You can:
- Apply custom rules or policies like only allowing specific endpoints or allowing all
- Customize responses for each custom rule
- Customize traffic filtration using 13 different criteria such as user agent, country agent, referrer domain, and others. You can also combine different criteria for extra complexity
DataDome requires no manual interventions and the initial set up is also pretty simple. You should only whitelist your trusted bots, and DataDome is ready.
Cloudflare Bot Management is certainly an effective bot fighting solution with machine learning capabilities and is especially a good choice if you are using Cloudflare CDN. However, if you are using other CDNs (or multi CDN setup), then other bot detection solutions like DataDome are more likely a better fit. DataDome also offers other advanced functionalities like customizability and real-time behavioral analysis detection.