Scraping Data From Websites

We’ve all noticed the word “web scraping” but what is this thing and just why should we really value it? Web scraping identifies a credit card applicatoin that is designed to simulate human being web browsing by accessing websites with respect to its “user” and collecting huge amounts of data that could typically be difficult for the end user to gain access to.

Web scrapers process the unstructured or semi-structured data pages of targeted websites and convert the info into a organized format. The info is in a organized format Once, the user can extract or manipulate the data easily. Web scraping is very similar to web indexing (utilized by most search engines), but the end motivation is normally much different. Whereas web indexing is used to help make search engines more efficient, web scraping is typically used for different reasons like change detection, market research, data monitoring, and in some full cases, theft. There are several reasons people (or companies) want to scrape websites, and there are tons of web scraping applications available today.

  • Nearly assured income
  • Select No, then click Next
  • Delete document from apex data files when done
  • Lots of plugins to extend functionality

A quick Search on the internet will yield numerous web scraping tools written in just about any programming language you prefer. In today’s information-hungry environment, individuals and companies as well are prepared to go to great measures to gather information about a variety of topics. Or, what if someone wanted to find a susceptible site that allowed normally not-so-free downloads? Or, maybe a less than honest person might want to find a summary of account figures on a niche site that failed to properly secure them. The list goes on and on. I will mention that web scraping is not just a bad thing always.

Some websites allow web scraping, but many do not. It is important to know very well what a website allows and prohibits before you scrape it. Web scraping trips a fine collection between collecting information and stealing information. Most websites have a copyright disclosure statement that defends their website information lawfully. It’s up to the reader/user/scraper to learn these disclosure statements and follow along legally and ethically. There were many court situations where web scraping converted into felony offenses.

One case involved an internet activist who scraped the MIT website and ultimately downloaded millions of educational articles. 1 million if convicted. Another case consists of a real property company who illegally scraped listings and photos from a rival so that they can gain a business lead in the market. Then, there’s the situation of a local software company that was convicted of illegally scraping a major data source company’s websites to be able to gain a competitive advantage. 20 million fine and the guilty scraper is offering three years probation. Finally, there’s the situation of a medical website that managed delicate patient information.

In this case, several patients got posted personal medication entries and other private information on closed forums located on the medical website. While many illegal web scrapers have been caught by the authorities, a lot more haven’t been captured and still run loose online across the world. As you can plainly see, it’s increasingly important to protect from this activity.

After all, the information on your website belongs for you, and you don’t want other people taking it without your authorization. As we’ve noted, today web scraping is a genuine problem for most companies. The good news is that F5 has web scraping protection built into the Application Security Manager (ASM) of its BIG-IP product family. As possible below see in the screenshot, the ASM provides web scraping safety against bots, session opening anomalies, session transaction anomalies, and Ip whitelisting. The bot recognition works with clients that accept process and cookies JavaScript.

It counts the client’s web page consumption quickness and declares a client as a bot if a certain amount of web page changes happen within confirmed time interval. The session starting anomaly places web scrapers that do not accept cookies or process JavaScript. It counts the amount of sessions opened during a given time interval and declares the client as a scraper if the maximum threshold is exceeded. The session transaction anomaly picks up valid sessions that visit the site a lot more than other clients. This defense is looking at a more impressive picture and it prevents sessions that exceed a calculated baseline number that comes from a current session table.

The IP address whitelist allows known friendly bots and crawlers (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, etc), and this list can be filled as needed to fit the needs of your organization. I won’t get into everything here because I’ll have some future articles that dive in to the details of how the ASM defends against these types of web scraping capabilities. But, suffice it to state, ASM does a congrats of protecting your website against the issue of web scraping.