Technology 3 min read

Lawmakers aim to Stop Grinch Bots From Ruining Christmas

The Grinch wanted to steal everyone's Christmas presents in the classic story. Modern day scalpers use botnets instead of sleighs and a sad dog. But U.S. lawmakers want to put an end to these Grinch Bots with H.R. 7160.

American lawmakers are trying to clamp down on the new Grinch Bots phenomenon that is crippling the retail industry. | Image By Aleutie | Shutterstock

American lawmakers are trying to clamp down on the new Grinch Bots phenomenon that is crippling the retail industry. | Image By Aleutie | Shutterstock

Forever a source of outrage and annoyance, U.S. lawmakers want to stop bots this holiday season.

For many people, the best part of the holidays includes the gifts they give and receive.

With the recent release of yet another interpretation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, new merchandise flew to the shelves in time for Christmas shoppers.

However, scalpers notoriously buy up all kinds of merchandise to later drive up the price.

These days, scalpers traded in visiting brick and mortar locations. Now, all they need to do is learn how to operate a botnet to get inventory. As a result of these high-tech swindlers, U.S. lawmakers wanted to step in and help out consumers during the holidays.

But with lackluster support, will legislation keep up with technology to save Christmas?

image of the Grinch in a chimney dressed as Santa Claus for article Lawmakers aim to Stop Grinch Bots From Ruining Christmas Sales
The Grinch gets a bad rap, I think, but scalpers using botnets to drive up prices? That’s definitely a Grinch-y move. | Dr. Seuss via cbc.ca

A Brief History of Grinches and Botnets

The story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas normally warms the heart. After all, a stoic, misunderstood and misguided character finds acceptance and warmth for the holiday season. It’s the ultimate Christmas story for many people.

In it, the Grinch plans to steal all of the presents from the people living in the town called Whoville. But, one little Who helps change his mind. He returns the gifts instead of stealing them all for himself.

Despite this lesson of positivity and giving, U.S. lawmakers have taken to label the new hacking phenomena as “Grinch bots.”

Hackers can exploit botnets for various nefarious means.

The Mirai botnet originally attacked Minecraft servers. Nowadays, it can take entire country systems offline in no time. It works by flooding a server with users or bots.

This concept applies to holiday shopping, too, apparently. That’s why Democratic lawmakers dubbed the proposed bill to stop these scalpers the “Stopping Grinch Bots Act”.

image of a robot controlling smart devices for article Lawmakers aim to Stop Grinch Bots From Ruining Christmas Sales
Botnets aren’t just big, scary threats like the Mirai botnet these days.

Lawmakers Attempt to Regulate Tech Like Grinch bots

The bill addresses the issues of scalpers using botnets to purchase merchandise. Then, the scalpers sell the merchandise at much higher prices than the original MSRP. This unfairly affects regular consumers who may not have armies of bots at their disposal.

Senators Richard Blumenthal, Tom Udall, and Chuck Schumer spear-headed the announcement on Black Friday — one of the most lucrative shopping days of the year.

Schumer himself commented directly on the use of bots against consumers.

“Middle-class folks save up — a little here, a little there — working to afford the hottest gifts of the season for their kids but ever-changing technology and its challenges are making that very difficult. It’s time we help restore an even playing field by blocking the bots.”

This movement started in 2016 with the Better Online Ticket Sales Act (BOTS act). But lately, botnets focus on higher ticket items such as expensive sneakers.

The bill proposes that security researchers find vulnerabilities on retailer websites. So, though it’s called the Grinch act, it would apply to every online retailer.

You can find the proposed bill H.R. 7160 here on the Congressional website.

In what other areas does legislation need to “catch up” with current technology as with the case of “Grinch bots”?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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