Doing Our Part to Ensure Customers, Not ‘Grinch Bots,’ Can Buy This Season’s Hottest Items

Dec. 15, 2020

1 Min. Read

Dec. 15, 2020
By Jerry Geisler, Chief Information Security Officer, Walmart Global Tech

The holidays are upon us, and customers are shopping online more than ever before. Our merchandising, operations and tech teams are all focused on giving customers every opportunity to get the hottest gifts they want this season, including the latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Increased online shopping due to COVID and the seven-year release cycles of these next-gen consoles have created levels and patterns of traffic on our site and our apps we’ve previously never seen. But this year, some of the additional traffic has come from “grinch bots,” who like the original Grinch, are trying to steal these would-be presents. That’s traffic that we simply don’t want.

Bots are programs written to quickly complete transactions when items are released online. They’re often used by re-sellers, because when they are successful, bots can complete many transactions before a human has the chance to complete one. That’s why we’re working hard to detect bots and prevent this from happening.

Once a site becomes aware of a bot’s presence, it can utilize a number of strategies in an attempt to block the bot. Bot scripts are constantly evolving and being re-written, so we’ve built, deployed and are continuously updating our own bot detection tools allowing us to successfully block the vast majority of bots we see.

And the steps we’ve taken are working as intended. One bot preventative action we implemented just hours before the PlayStation 5 event on Nov. 25 blocked more than 20 million bot attempts within the first 30 minutes alone (which is a fraction of what our systems deal with continually). As an additional step, we also audit and quickly cancel any orders confirmed to be purchased by bots that may have slipped through. As a result, the vast majority of our next-gen consoles have been purchased by legitimate customers, which is exactly what we want.

We have more next-gen consoles coming online soon, and we’re continuing to work hard to get them into the hands of as many customers as possible. We hope others across the retail industry will join us by asking lawmakers to do more to prevent these unwanted bots on retail sites, so customers have equal access to the products they want.