What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping, or content scraping or web harvesting is the usage of bots or automated programs to extract data from websites. There are various methods and techniques we can use for web scraping, but the basic principle remains the same: fetching the website and extracting data/content from it.
Those are just some of many more negative impacts that can be caused by web scraping, and this is why it’s very important to prevent the scraping attacks from malicious bots as soon as possible.
The basic principle in preventing web/content scraping is making it as difficult as possible for bots and automated scripts to extract your data, while not making it difficult for legitimate users to navigate your site and for good bots (even good web scraper bots) to extract your data.
This, however, can be easier said than done, and typically there’ll always be trade-offs between preventing scraping and accidentally blocking legitimate users and good bots.
Below we will discuss some effective methods for preventing scraping of a website:
A common type of web scrapers is called HTML scrapers and parsers, which will extract data based on patterns in your HTML codes. So, an effective tactic to prevent this type of scraping is to intentionally change the HTML patterns, which will render these HTML scrapers ineffective or we can even trick them into wasting their resources.
How to do so will vary depending on your website’s structure, but the idea is to look for HTML patterns that might be exploited by web scrapers.
While this approach is effective, it can be difficult to maintain in the long run, and it might affect your site’s caching. However, it’s still worth trying to prevent HTML crawlers from finding the desired data or content, especially if you have a collection of similar content that might cause the forming of HTML patterns (i.e. a series of blog posts).
You can either check your traffic logs manually for unusual activities and symptoms of bot traffic, including:
Once you’ve identified activities from web scraper bots, you can either:
Alternatively, you can use autopilot bot management software like DataDome that will actively detect the presence of web scraper activities in real-time and mitigate their activities instantly as they are detected.
Another effective technique is to add ‘honeypot’ to your content or HTML codes to fool the web scrapers.
The idea here is to redirect the scraper bot to a fake (honeypot) page and/or serve fake and useless information to the scraper bot. You can serve up randomly generated articles that look similar to your real articles, so the scrapers can’t distinguish between them, ruining the extracted data.
Again, since the goal is to make it as difficult as possible for the web scraper to access and extract data, do not provide a way for them to get all your dataset at once.
For example, don’t have a page listing all your blog posts/articles on a single page, but instead, make them only accessible via your site’s search feature.
Also, make sure you don’t expose any APIs and access points. Make sure you obfuscate your endpoints at all times.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to present scraping of a website, the four methods we have shared above are among the most effective in finding the right balance between your site’s user experience for legitimate users and preventing scraping. It’s best to use these four tips in combination while considering which works best for your current needs and requirements.
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