Imperva has revealed the extent to which hardware scalpers used "Grinchbots" to buy the precious few CPUs, GPUs, and next-generation consoles that were available during the holiday season and make well over $82 million in sales in the process.
The latest information about the prevalence of this practice arrived via the "Bad Bot Report 2021: The Pandemic of the Internet" study the company published today. Imperva said it saw a 788% increase in "bad bot traffic to retail websites globally between September and October 2020," in large part due to next-gen consoles.
Late 2020 was the perfect time for people to profit off these so-called Grinchbots. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S were both well-received and released just before the holiday season; they would have been popular among scalpers and scammers even if Sony and Microsoft were able to keep pace with demand.
These Grinchbots aren't expected to go away now that the holidays are over, either. "The situation is predicted to continue throughout 2021," Imperva said in the report, "as hardware supply remains scarce and demand grows." Anyone looking for the best graphics cards or the best CPUs is all too familiar with that reality.
Imperva's report cited data analyst Michael Driscoll, who said in December 2020 that scalpers "made $82 million in sales" and "$39 million in profit since September," and that's just on eBay. He also said that he "would conservatively guess the real scalping market is at least 2-5× larger (personally I think 10×+)" on alternative platforms.
Unfortunately, with the exception of refusing to buy the latest devices from scalpers, there isn't much consumers can do about the trends described in Imperva's report. Manufacturers simply can't keep up with demand, so it's up to website operators to prevent scalpers from taking advantage of supply issues in the meantime.