America Considers Grinch Bots Ban
The US Congress is to consider a bill to block the use of Grinch bots, which buy up large quantities of toys then re-sell them at hugely inflated prices.
Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Stopping Grinch Bots Act bill on Friday, with support from Senators Tom Udall and Charles Schumer and House Representative Paul Tonko.
Cyber Grinch bots use automation technology to bypass security measures and order large batches of the most sought-after toys and other products, which are then resold at grossly inflated prices by the bad actors who deployed the bots.
"Allowing Grinch bots to rig prices and squeeze consumers during the holiday season hurts American families, small business owners, product makers, and entrepreneurs. We will not allow this market manipulation to go unchecked,” said Paul Tonko.
If passed into law, the new bill would make it illegal to knowingly circumvent a security measure, access control system, or other technological control or measure on a website or online service in this way. It would also make it an offense to sell or offer to sell any product or service obtained in this manner.
The Stopping Grinch Bots Act proposes allowing the Federal Trade Commission to treat these abusive security workarounds as prohibited unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to take action against the bad actors.
Speaking in an interview with News 8 on Friday, Senator Richard Blumenthal said: "These cyber-thieves are going to websites, buying in bulk the hottest, latest toys, and hijacking the holidays for countless children, their parents, and small businesses.
"They re-sell them at outrageously high prices. They raise the cost of the holidays and they also ruin them for a lot of children whose toys are then out of reach financially for their parents."
In 2016, Tonko’s Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act was signed into law by President Obama to ban “ticket bots” that intentionally bypass security measures on online ticketing websites to unfairly out-price individual fans. The Stopping Grinch Bots Act would apply the structure of the BOTS Act to e-commerce sites to ban bots that bypass security measures on online retail sites.
The legislation has received support from national consumer organizations, including Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America, and the National Consumer League.
"With some luck maybe, we can get it done before these holidays are ended, but in any event, we should have the law in place to protect consumers in the future. These cyber bots are going to be with us unless we take action against them," said Blumenthal. Source: Information Security Magazine