The internet is heavily flooded with data. It could take a person several hours, or even days, and a considerable number of cups of coffee to sift through the data and ultimately reach actionable insights.
For businesses leveraging a lot of data for market research, competitive price analysis, and other business applications, sifting through data can be disadvantageous and time consuming. At the same time, cyber-attacks targeting valuable data on various websites are intensifying.
But there’s good news. Implementing web scraping in a business is an easier, more accurate, and affordable way of accessing and analyzing large amounts of data. Additionally, it can enhance cybersecurity.
Investing time and effort into gaining knowledge in python web scraping can enable businesses to easily thwart cyber-attacks.
This article delved into what web scraping is and how knowledge, skills, and experience in python web scraping can enhance cybersecurity.
What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping, also known as web crawling, is a process of fetching the data you want from third-party sources, downloading, and organizing it in a structured format. One does this by leveraging on patterns in the source web page’s underlying code.
With these bots, one can quickly access data that give their businesses an advantage over their competitors in several business and industrial applications.
Web scrapers are quick, efficient, accurate, and affordable data miners.
How Can Web Scraping Enhance Cyber Security?
Though scraping activities primarily aim to benefit one’s website, some scraper bots are unwelcome and perform malicious actions. They are a threat to people’s data.
These bots can extract sensitive data, assess navigable paths, extract web apps, and read parameter values, helping attackers identify vulnerabilities on target sites and initiate a cyber-attack.
Especially in these unprecedented times, covid-19’s impact on cybersecurity cannot be ignored. The good news is that those well-versed in web scraping can implement protection to secure their websites, derailing any imminent cyber-attacks.
How Do Attackers Roll Out Web Scraping Attacks?
Cyber-attacks involving malicious web scraping take place in three phases:
1. Identifying The Target
The first phase of a web scraping attack involves identifying a business’ URL address and parameter values.
The web scraper bot relies on the information it collects to attack the target website. It can be through creating fake accounts on the website they’re after, using parody IP addresses, or even hiding the identity of the scraper bot.
2. Scraping The Target
The web scraper bot then runs on the target app or website to achieve its objectives.
During scraping, the site’s resources tend to be overburdened, resulting in an extreme slowdown or sometimes a total site breakdown.
3. Data Extraction
Guided by its objectives, the bot extracts content and/or data from the website and stores it in its database. Worst of all, the bot might use the same data extracted from the website to perform more malicious attacks.
Web Scraping Protection to Enhance Security of a Website
After understanding how web scraping attacks happen, readers can now establish how to protect their websites against these malevolent operations. With substantial knowledge of web scraping, stopping these attacks can be more manageable.
Some of the methods one can use to enhance cybersecurity against web scraping include:
1. Detect Any Bot Activities
Web scraping attacks are initiated and conducted by bots. But if businesses can detect their activities in the early stages of the attack, it’s possible to prevent them.
People need to keep checking their traffic patterns and logs often. If they identify any activities alerting them of a possible malicious attack, they can move with speed to limit the bot’s access or even block the operation altogether.
Indicators of a web scraping attack include:
- Attempts to get to hidden files
- Repetitive actions coming from the same IP
2. Other Tips in Identifying Web Scraping Attacks
While the most common way people use to detect bot activities in their websites is IP-based, bots are becoming more sophisticated. They can navigate between thousands or even millions of IP addresses.
Therefore, to be more effective, one needs to use other approaches to detect any indicators that their website is under attack. Such indicators include the speed with which the fake user completes forms, clicks, and mouse movement.
The methods to use to detect these indicators include:
- Repetitive requests that are similar: Even if they come from different IP addresses, they may indicate a web scraping attack.
- Rate limiting: One can slow down web scrapers by only allowing a certain number of particular actions at a time. For instance, website owners commonly approach this by limiting searches done per second from any IP address or user.
- Using CAPTCHAS: CAPTCHAs (Completely Automated Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) are designed to allow legitimate users (humans) to access a website’s services while filtering out bots. The only problem is while many CAPTCHAs will make a site more secure, they often result in a much less pleasant user experience.
Web scraping is a vital tool in helping websites access real-time data from massive public online sources. Learning how to web scrape is also vital in helping one to identify and stop any unauthorized web scraping targeting their websites.
With clear protection strategies and measures, web scraping can enhance cybersecurity, preventing cybercriminals from causing severe data breaches or other damages to a website. Website owners should enroll in web scraping tutorials if they’d like to take cybersecurity to a higher level.