01 Nov 2016

What Do You Know About Web Scraping Bots?

What do you know about bots? A bot is a software program designed to perform certain automated tasks on the world wide web. Bots often do unattainable and undesirable labor for us, such as: to search engine crawling, to monitor website health, to measure web resources’ speed, to power APIs, to fetch web content and etc. You may also use these programs to reveal weak sides in your network’s or websites’ security and then use them to enhance your web safety.

All in all, the latest statistic data has shown that bots occupy nearly a half of 2015 web traffic, and two-thirds of these programs were created for malicious purposes. One of the main bots’ faults is that they’re often used for web scraping.

So what does web scraping mean and how can it influence on your online business?

Malicious Web Scraping

Web scraping is often used to collect automatically information from other web resources. The most spread type of web scraping is site scraping.

You just make a bot that crawls into a website, accesses the site’s source code, analyzes its structure, removes the key pieces of data and then posts this information on another web resource. Such actions may be allowed or prohibited by the website owner.

Another type of web scraping is data scraping. The main purpose of such activity is to retrieve information from the site’s database. A hacker creates a special bot to interact with a target’s website’s application, and while interacting with the site, this program tries all possible combinations in the web application to get certain data.

For instance, if you own a vehicle rental agency and want to check the prices of your competitors on a regular basis, you may design a special bot that will visit other car rental agencies’ websites and collect price lists from them.

Overall, data scraping is often used to steal intellectual property, customer lists, insurance pricing and other databases when a boring, routine work should be done.

If you want to shield your web content or database from malicious bots, it’s advisable to find a solution that adequately detects, identifies and mitigates these programs.

Useful Web Scraping

Collecting data from other internet resources isn’t always bad: sometimes special programs may be used by data owners to spread information among internet users. For instance, loads of governmental websites try to distribute information among the general public with the help of special scrapers.

Another example of legitimate scraping is aggregation websites such as travel sites, concert ticket websites and hotel booking portals. Bots usually get data from these sites with the help of API or by scraping and then drive the content to the data owner’s websites. Using bots for such purposes is often considered as a key element of making the online business profitable.

Website owners always have an opportunity to enhance the security of their websites by blocking bat bots without excluding legitimate ones. For example, it’s possible to make an ecosystem that is both bot-friendly and able to block bad automated clients.

Four Things Required For Detecting and Stopping Site Scraping

If you compare the first bots and the programs used nowadays, you will be certainly surprised by the fact how the first primitive scripts have evolved into complex, intelligent programs that are able to fraud websites and their security systems.

Though using bots for commercial purposes may be quite beneficial, there is also a striking necessity to make the right steps to protect your websites’ content from stealing. For instance, you may use one of the following methods to classify and mitigate bots, including detecting software:

  • Employ an analysis tool

Use a static analysis tool to examine web requests and header information, then try to correlate it with what a bot claims to be and, finally, decided whether blocking is needed.

  • Use a challenge-based approach

If you want to detect a scraping program, you may use proactive web components to evaluate visitors’ behavior or understand whether he uses cookies and JavaScript. Scrambled imagery like CAPTCHA may also become an effective method of blocking some attacks.

  • Take a behavioral approach

Nearly all bots have a link to a parent program like Chrome, Internet Explorer or JavaScript. If you watch the bot activity, it will be easier for you to determine what kind of program it is. For instance, if the bot’s characteristics differ greatly from the parent program, you may employ the anomaly to detect, block and mitigate the problems in the future.

  • Use robots.txt

Robots.txt may be used as a shield from malicious programs in some way because it often says bad bots that they aren’t welcome. However, most of the deleterious programs often break the rules, and they will simply ignore this command. In some cases, bad bots will peep inside robots.txt to find private folders and admin pages the site owner wants to hide from Google’s index and exploit them.

Today, we’ve discussed several important aspects of dealing with web scraping bots. Hope that our tips and clues will help you to build a trustworthy website’s security system.

However, if you want to make your eCommerce business really profitable, you should definitely think of your web performance. An effective way to speed up your website is to use content delivery network, read how it works on our website.