Out-of-control scalper bots that create public service appointments for multiple government services and then make them available for sale to irate individuals have caused mayhem in Israel. The bot operators tried to charge more than $100 for appointments for various governmental organizations, such as passport renewal, the Ministry of Transport, the Israeli Ministry of Interior, Israel Post, National Insurance, and the Israeli national Electricity Company.
Akamai, a company monitoring the issue, claims that the Ministry of the Interior’s backlog of over 700,000 passport applications, which was brought on by easing travel restrictions to enable a post-pandemic travel boom, provided ideal ground for the bot. Software developers responded by developing the ‘GamkenBot’ appointment scheduling bot, which autonomously schedules appointments based on availability on the state’s website, MyVisit.
The bot was made accessible to the public for everyone’s use, but malevolent individuals seized it and altered its functionality to scalp all the open appointments. The dishonest people behind the rogue bot created a Telegram group, advertised “instant appointments,” and even provided special discounts for those who purchased two. In actuality, the appointment marketers are making it more difficult for individuals to obtain appointments that are supposed to be free of charge while posing as well-intentioned developers who want to assist people.
The state would have to abandon the present online platform, cancel several legitimate appointments, and overall create an extremely troublesome scenario to put the genie back in the bottle. The booking page’s CAPTCHA was added by MyVisit in an effort to deter scalpers, but the bot developers quickly added CAPTCHA-solving capabilities to get around this measure.
“To beat today’s modern bots, much more advanced measures are utilized by bot management products,” comments Akamai. “Device fingerprinting and behavioral analysis are combined with machine learning models, fed with billions of daily requests to detect trends and anomalies.”
For the time being, this rogue operation appears to have control over Israel’s governmental services and the people who utilize them, making it difficult for them to put an end to it. Before releasing the online platform, the state had to ensure it was secure. If you are a citizen, be aware that buying appointments through this illicit channel encourages the operators to continue and even diversify into more crucial sectors, like hospital appointments, etc.