Saturday, April 30, 2022

Best Practice for Protecting Your Site From Scraping



Protect Site From Scraping: Web scraping is a technique used often to convert data on the web (HTML) into a much more meaningful format to the user. Once restructured, the data can be housed in a database or a spreadsheet and utilized or reviewed for various reasons. Web scrapping is intended to help website owners get the details (contents) of their websites in their database to host them on their sites. In most cases, web scrapers use software to extract data from the websites. Web Scraper Chrome extension is one of the most widely used software in web scraping. Some scrapers use various libraries available in various programming languages, such as Scrapy, to perform the task.

Protecting Your Site From Scraping

Why Site Owners Are Always Worried About Scraping

Website scraping is not something that should be done anyhow as it can result in more problems for your website. The person undertaking this exercise should be adequately experienced and knowledgeable on matters about website scraping. A novice person may launch a bot that carries out multiple requests without stopping between requests. This can result in a Denial of Service (DoS) situation.

It’s worth noting that not all web scrapers mean well for your business. In fact, some tend to steal data from websites and use it for their gain. The implication of this is a reduction in your business profits. That’s why many website owners are against scraping and have moved ahead to explore the best practices to curb this worrying practice.

That said, this article seeks to discuss some of the best practices site owners can adopt to prevent scraping.
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Terms of Use

One way of putting off potential web scrapers from your website is by stating explicitly that you don’t entertain such acts in your Terms of Use and Conditions. Although this may not discourage everybody, you will have the backing of the law in case you decide to pursue legal action against perpetrators, provided such a condition is in place. An example of such a condition may look like this:

“You are only allowed to use or reproduce the content on the website for personal use and not for commercial purposes. The framing, extraction of data, or content of the website in any format and by whatever means is strictly disallowed. Furthermore, duplication of any material contained on the website is prohibited. ”

This would signify that web visitors are barred from extracting, duplicating, or using the website's content for commercial purposes.

Nevertheless, this is unlikely to guarantee 100 percent deterrence. Therefore, this alone is not enough to mitigate web scraping. But when used alongside other techniques, it can prove effective in combating web scraping.

Rate Limit Individual IP Addresses

If you’re getting tons of requests from one computer, there is a high likelihood that the computer user is making automated requests to your website.

Denying access to computers making lots of requests in no time is typically one of the moves sites will embrace to curb web scrapers.

However, it’s worth noting that various proxy services, corporate networks, and VPNs make all the incoming traffic seem like it is originating from the same IP address; therefore, you might mistakenly block a significant number of authentic users who all seem to be connecting through the same device.

Well-resourced scrapers can overcome this kind of protection by setting up several machines to run their scraper on, so this will make it appear as if only a few requests are coming from a single device.

So as not to be detected, web scrapers can decide to slow down their scraper so as to create intervals between requests and appear as a different user clicking links every few seconds.

Require a Login for Access

Basically, HTTP has no specified protocol, which means there is no preservation of information from one request to another, although many HTTP clients such as browsers will store things like session cookies.

This means that a scarper can easily access a page on a public website without going through the identification process. However, if a page is secured by a login, then the scraper will need to supply distinct identification details along with each request in order to access the content, which can be easily monitored to find out who is behind the scrapping.

While this may not stop scraping entirely, it will give you a hint of who is accessing your content through automation.

Routinely Modify Your Website’s HTML

Scrapers depend heavily on identifying patterns in a website’s HTML markup, as those patterns serve as clues in aiding their scripts to trace the meaningful data in your website’s HTML soup.

Suppose your website’s markup is ever-changing or is completely irregular. In that case, you will be able to make it extremely difficult for scrapers to access your content and ultimately give up in the process.

Modifying your website HTML doesn’t mean that you redesign the entire site but instead alter the class and id in your HTML, as that is enough to frustrate the scrapers.

Use CAPTCHAs When Appropriate

CAPTCHAs are specifically intended to distinguish humans from machines by avoiding problems that are generally easy for humans but somewhat challenging for computers.

Although these problems are very easy for humans to tackle, they often find them quite irritating. While CAPTCHAs are useful, they should be used in a restricted manner.

CAPTCHAs should only pop up when a client has made dozens of requests in the last few seconds. Overuse of CAPTCHAs can deter clients from visiting your site as many find them annoying.

Honeypots

Honeypots are pages that an authentic user would never bother to visit, but a robot opening all the links contained in a page might inadvertently stumble across. Any visit to such links should be deemed suspicious and the IP address behind the visit flagged.

Honeypots are created purposely for web crawlers, that is, bots that are unsure of the URLs they ought to visit, and for that reason, they have to click all the links on the website to navigate its content.
Once a given client opens a link leading to a honeypot page, you can be pretty assured that they are not human users, and the best step to take in such a case is to block all the requests stemming from that client.

Conclusion

These are some of the best techniques that can be used to prevent and stop web scraping. However, it’s worth noting that no single technique can provide absolute protection on its own. For optimal effectiveness, using a combination of these techniques and web scraping will become a thing of the past.

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