Data scraping is becoming increasingly popular on the Internet to get essential data from websites, programs or platforms. But there are also dangers in practice. We explain what is hidden behind the term and how you can protect yourself.
What do people do when, how and why on a website? These questions concern marketers and content creators, and user interface designers. A very effective way to answer this is through data scraping or web scraping.
This Is How Data Scraping Works
Scraping is nothing more than transferring information from a website to a database. For example, if you’ve ever copied email addresses from a website to a contact list, you’ve scraped data.
Companies that work with big data do not do this manually but use software or bots to extract specific information from a website. There are also web crawlers that extract data based on artificial intelligence.
Data is not always readable data, such as telephone numbers or names. Scraping often also means taking unstructured data from a portal and entering it into a database to analyze it then.
What Do You Do With The Data?
From this, it can then be deduced, for example, at which points users cancel a purchase process, at which point in the customer journey interested parties arrive at the website or which content arouses particular interest. It is also possible to transfer email contacts to a customer file for sales.
In other words: data scraping offers companies, marketers, creatives and designers many options for data analysis.
If users are informed about this use of their data and agree to this, data scraping is not a problem in itself. But of course, the technology is also wonderfully suited to illegally accessing your data without users’ knowledge.
This Is How Hackers Use Data Scraping
Hackers, for example, use data scraping to extract personal user data from social media sites.
They can send scrapers to the website themselves to receive data or if this is not secured well enough, hack the database in which the data ends after scraping. Cybercriminals can use this data to launch various attacks.
If, for example, they can get hold of email addresses, this is an ideal starting point for launching phishing attacks. They usually have access to other personal information to make their phishing emails look authentic. This is how they get sensitive information via fraudulent emails.
It is also possible to obtain passwords. Many people use their street names or dates of birth as passwords. If hackers can get hold of this data through web-scraping, it doesn’t take many attempts to crack the password.
Theoretically, large databases can also be sold profitably on the dark web.
This Can Prevent Unwanted Scraping
As a web user, you can only protect yourself against scraping to a limited extent. The responsibility lies more with the website operator.
Data scraping can be done in several ways. So it is not that easy to protect yourself from it in general. Of course, there is never complete security. But there are ways to prevent unwanted scraping, at least to a large extent.
A portal can be set up so that only a certain number of activities in a specific time frame are permitted from an IP address. This could apply to search queries, for example. This is a method that scrapers use.
Of course, you can also get information this way, but much more slowly. And the harder it is for hackers to scrape data, the faster they’ll give up.
Other security measures can also include observing processes such as the time it takes to enter data. Bots act here much faster than human users. Captcha checks can also help to reduce bot access to a website.
Some websites also work with “honeypots” – that is, with honey pots. They present data of interest to scrapers, such as an email address, and have it deliberately scraped. However, it is made clear that this is not an actual email address for human users.
In this way, you can then identify those IP addresses that extract this email address, expose the scrapers and block them. There are also commercial services that offer scraping protection.
Above all, website operators must be aware of the risk and protect the data on their site from unauthorized access.