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Data Security: Scraping Bot Challenges

We live in a time where everyone, from petty crooks to global corporations, understands the value of and can benefit from leveraging the right data. Petabytes of it are out there for the taking, necessitating a fast and all-encompassing collection method. That’s where web scraping in all its dubiously ethical & legal forms comes in.

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This article takes a closer look at web scraping. It explores the practice’s workings and moral aspects. Towards the end, it offers practical advice on safeguarding your digital assets from scraping attempts.

A Gray Threat

It’s important to note that web scraping happens on a spectrum. Its most transparent and legal use is gathering publically available and freely accessible data. Ethical scrapers honor a site’s Robots.txt guidelines, and their operators use the data to gain insights anyone else could if they employed the same tactics.

Conversely, malicious actors don’t care about restrictions and leverage web scraping for more nefarious purposes. They may steal intellectual property or gather personally identifiable information from a website’s user database. The crooks can then use this information to either log into the site & cause damage or sell it to others.

Most web scraping falls somewhere between the two. While still legal, some may find such uses ethically questionable. For example, scraping the product pricing histories is a common web scraping use. Is it OK to leverage that data to not only undercut the competition but develop a pricing strategy that will ensure your prices are always more competitive?

How Do Web Scrapers Operate?

Web scraping is a nuanced and diverse undertaking. Talented individuals can code a scraper from scratch. Conversely, a business that wants to get a leg up on its rivals will likely contact one of the countless scraping-as-a-service companies to do the job for them.

Simply put, web scraping automates the identification, collection, and sorting of data into a readable and usable format. Scrapers request data from a website and can either extract pertinent bits like the current cost of a flight or copy and store the entire site’s layout. The latter is particularly worrying since cybercriminals can use scraping to believably recreate a website and lure users there to steal their data.

It sounds straightforward, but there are many hurdles to getting a scraping tool to perform accurately and consistently. Scrapers need tailoring to the current version of the site they’re working on, or else the results won’t be complete and trustworthy.

Scraping is an automated activity carried out by bots. These bots have to bypass several protection layers and remain undetected to complete their mission. Mimicking human behavior is, therefore, essential for continued access.

Human-like requests are relatively slow, and websites place obstacles like CAPTCHAs before bots to identify them. Scraper providers have found ways to bypass most such measures. For example, using residential proxies when making requests is common practice. These provide real rotating IP addresses, making a single bot’s repeated attempts look like requests from multiple users at different locations.

While public data is fair game, unethical scraping doesn’t stop there. It’s straightforward to create accounts for dozens of IPs on a given site. These logged-in “users” then have access to more of a site’s features and data.

How to Prevent Scraping Bots?

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for web scraping prevention. The bots are growing more sophisticated, and the AI boom will only exacerbate the challenge. However, website owners who want to make the bots’ lives miserable can still do a lot.

Requiring account creation is the first step many sites already employ. Putting the data behind a login requirement won’t make it 100% secure, but it brings several benefits. On the one hand, it’s harder to create an account for every used IP, so the scraper’s developers won’t bother in most cases. On the other, outlining a strict data protection policy in your Terms of Service means anyone who accepts is liable for any breach of the terms.

Businesses should also keep their most important data separate from their public-facing networks. Doing so was more convenient when everyone was at a central office where the cybersec team could heavily fortify the local network. Modern WFH and remote challenges require a different approach – one business VPNs are ideal for.

Virtual private networks guarantee the integrity and anonymity of all sensitive data exchanged between remote employees and company networks. It’s easy to find VPNs for multiple devices, which is essential in the modern world. They encrypt all communication and data transmissions in all devices, ensuring that no bot instructed to snoop on such activities can get any data that’s usable in any way or traceable to your company as the source.

Honeypots are a popular and effective means of thwarting data scraping bots. One can set them up to observe a scraper’s activity, which helps in recognizing suspicious behavior and developing countermeasures. The honeypot can then introduce a link no ordinary user should be able to click on, identifying and booting the scraper from the website.

Messing with the site’s HTML tags is another way of keeping scrapers on their toes. Successful scraping hinges on exact parameters. An attempt will only be partially successful or fail outright if the website’s HTML tags don’t match what the bot is expecting.


We summarized quite a complex topic, and hopefully, it’s enough to get a grasp of the idea of how to fight unwanted scraping attempts. If anything about data scraping is certain, it’s that criminals and legitimate companies will continue to rely on it for valuable and timely insights. It’s become just another cost of doing business for the latter. Keeping a step ahead will require more vigilance and reassessment of current cybersecurity strategies.

About the author

Atish Ranjan

Atish Ranjan is an established and independent voice dedicated to providing you with unique, well-researched and original information from the field of technology, SEO, social media, and blogging. He has in-depth knowledge of computers and tech as he pursued computer science.

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