On September 14, the Solana network—primed for speedy, low-cost transactions compared to oft-congested Ethereum—went down for 17 hours.

The culprit was a group of bots, software programs that crypto traders use to make automated trades, aping into the GRAPE token sale on decentralized exchange Raydium. The Solana Foundation called it, "in effect, a denial of service attack"—though the bots' intended use was to outmaneuver other traders, not to take down the network.

It’s not just exchanges that are having issues with bots; the software can also be programmed to bid on NFTs. To deal with this growing concern, San Francisco-based Civic, a decentralized identity protocol, announced today the launch of Ignite Pass, a free version of its Civic Pass. Civic says Ignite Pass will require non-fungible token (NFT) buyers to prove their “liveness” so that drops and mints can maintain an equitable and transparent community.

Chris Hart, the CEO of Civic Technologies, has called bots nuisances that destroy the trust communities have built. “Civic believes that a more level playing field is beneficial for all,” Hart told Decrypt via email. “In the places where bots are negatively manipulating NFT markets, we see an opportunity to help put guardrails in place.”

The idea is to require users to verify they are not a bot, similar to reCaptcha by Google or hCaptcha from Human Protocol. Civic believes this will prevent the network from being overwhelmed as it was in September when bots spammed the low-cost network with over 400,000 transactions per second for Grape's initial decentralized exchange offering.

“We think it is important that genuine supporters of NFT projects control the marketplaces and not bots,” Hart said. “So our goal in distributing tools like Civic Ignite Pass for free, is to help cut the growing threat off at the pass and allow users to focus on creating and collecting art.”

Civic says it also offers a paid upgrade option to provide KYC & AML capabilities for high-value auctions. According to an October 2021 report by DappRadar, in the third quarter of 2021, the NFT space generated over $10.67 billion in trading volume, a 704% increase from the previous quarter.

And as it grows, expect the bot problem to get bigger.