Web scraping is the process of automatically collecting information from the internet. Web scraping retrieves the core HTML code as well as data from a database. The scraper can then copy a part or the full content of a site to another location.
In the right hands, it is useful for disseminating knowledge, but in the wrong hands, it usually results in intellectual property theft. Web criminals run automated bots and tools to invade a website and use its content for malicious goals.
If you own a website, especially one for your business, this should alarm you. That’s because web scraping has a bigger influence on digital business than you might expect. That’s why you should learn to better protect your site, eradicate threats, and block web scraping tools.
How Web Scraping Can Damage Your Site
As mentioned, web scraping isn’t always illegal. But when it’s done without the permission of the site’s owner, that’s when it’s considered a risk. But how much of a risk? Here are three different examples of how malicious web scraping can put you at a disadvantage.
1) Content Scraping
It’s one of the most common and most detrimental purposes of web scraping. Content scraping is stealing content from a site on a large scale. Online product catalogs and websites that rely on digital material to generate revenue are frequent victims.
The stolen data can then be used by cybercriminals to take over the search engine ranking of the original site. They also use it to trick users into logging personal information by creating phishing websites.
2) Price Scraping
Price scraping is done to complete one objective: boost sales. To do that, the scraper accesses pricing information and undercuts competitors. A botnet is used to launch scraper bots that check out the databases of business rivals.
The typical targets of this scheme are electronic vendors, travel agencies, and online ticket sellers. These are industries where items are easily comparable and pricing affects purchase decisions.
3) Contact Scraping
This type of web scraping refers to searching a website for contact information and downloading it. Malicious bots take email addresses and phone numbers in hopes of finding new people to spam.
Many businesses are tempted to practice contact scraping because it has good benefits to them. But is it worth it? No. Aside from being illegal in many countries, sending unsolicited emails might harm your company’s reputation.
How To Deal With It
In the beginning, scraper bots were nothing but simple scripts that have minimal capacities. But over time, they have evolved into complex programs that can mimic human behavior to deceive website security systems.
So how do you deal with these modern threats? How can you block web scraping tools and bots to secure your site?
Apply Rate Limiting
One thing that gives away a bot’s identity is when they request the content of hundreds of pages in a matter of seconds. A human user can’t possibly make that many requests that fast.
So what you do is block IP addresses that make requests too fast. This is typically one of the first security measures of a site to prevent web scrapers.
Regularly Change Your HTML
This part can be a challenge. Maybe not for you, but surely for the web designers. However, if done routinely, the challenge will be mostly on the bad guys.
Scrapers rely on discovering patterns in a site’s HTML syntax, which they then utilize as clues to guide their scripts to the correct data in the HTML soup. So if you always change the patterns, there’s a good chance they give up.
Have a Bot Management Solution
Bot management solutions are built to analyze bot behavioral patterns and take steps to prevent bot scraping. However, the hurdle in this one is finding the right bot management solution.
Choose one that can evaluate behavioral and technical data. It should be able to detect harmful botnets before they can launch scraping attacks while ensuring a smooth user experience for real humans.
The Bottom Line
If not prevented, malicious web scraping can negatively affect your business in ways you might haven’t thought of at first, from overloading the infrastructure to diminishing the value of your marketing investments. That’s why your site needs to be safe at all times. For the benefit of your company, always have the right web security measures.