Detect and Prevent web scraping

The internet is crawling with bots. A bot is program that runs over the internet to crawl the website, typically repetitive task at high speeds unattainable or undesirable by humans. They are responsible for many jobs such as search engine crawling, website health monitoring, fetching web content and measuring site speed.

Almost half of all web traffic is bots, and two thirds of bot traffic is malicious. One of the ways that bots can harm business is by engaging in web scraping.

What is web scraping?

It’s an automatic method to obtain large amounts of datasets from websites. Most of this data is unstructured data in an HTML which is then exported into a format that is more useful to the users for example you can use scraping to export the list of products names and prices from e-commerce platform into a excel although web scraping can be done manually.

A more advanced type of scraping is database scraping. Conceptually this is similar to site scraping except that hackers will create a bot which interacts with a target site’s application to retrieve data from its database.

Let’s consider the case of e-commerce website, if a company created a bot that regularly checked the price of its competitor and undercut them at every price point, it would have a competitive advantage. This lower price would appear in all sites that compare both companies and would likely result in more purchase and sale.

How to detect and prevent site scraping

Following methods can be used to detect and mitigate bots

User Verification approach

This approach is used to detect a scraping bot.Proactive web component can be used to evaluate visitor behavior such as does it support cookies, reference header, user agent and IP addresses. Scrambled imagery like CAPTCHA or One-time password verification which can block some attacks can also be used.

Analysis Bots including site scrapers can be identified and blocked by using analysis tool that will monitor a complete web requests and header information including user agents and by co-relating that information with what a bot claims to be.

Using Robots.txt

Robots.txt can be used to protect the site from scraping bots or crawlers, but it may not be completely effective in the modern internet world. Robots.txt works by telling a bad bot that it’s not allowed to crawl. Since bad bots usually ignore the robots.txt rules, they will ignore any commands. In some situations, some malicious bots will look inside robots.txt for hidden file path, folder and admin panel to exploit them.