Web Screen Scraping: Useful Tips From Semalt

Nowadays, data can become your most important asset. As such, it is never a good idea to let it slip into the hands of your competitors. However, sometimes it can be challenging to prevent this due to screen scraping. This is a technique that has for years been used to extract data from web pages.

This method poses two significant problems to a firm. First of all, the data can be used to gain an advantage over a business perhaps by undercutting prices as well as obtaining information on products. Also, if done persistently, the technique may also grind down the performance of a website.

Generally, screen scraping is a concept that was created by early terminal emulation programs a couple of decades ago. It is a programmatic technique that extracts information from screens that are designed primarily for viewing by humans. The program pretends to be a human and reads the data, collecting valuable information and processing it for storage.

The technique has evolved significantly over the years, especially with the invention of web crawlers. It evolved even further with the development of e-retail screen scraping, for instance, price comparison websites. These websites employ programs that periodically visit popular e-retail to obtain the latest prices as well as availability information for a given product or service. This data is then stored in a database and used to provide comparative reviews of the e-retail landscape.

Competitive screen scraping has a variety of negative impacts on the IT systems of a firm in that it is just another example of unwanted traffic. Recent studies have proven that at least 61% of all traffic is generated by bots. These bots consume vital resources as well as bandwidth intended for genuine web users which may result in an increase in the rate of latency for real customers.

Screen scraping has been going on for a long time. However, it is not until more recently that the victims of this behavior are beginning to react. Some have claimed unfair business practices and copyright infringement while in contrast the firms doing the scraping defend themselves by claiming freedom of information.

A lot of website owners have resorted to writing usage policies on their web pages which prohibit aggressive scraping. Unfortunately, they cannot enforce these policies, and so the problem does not seem to be going away anytime soon.

Years ago, eBay introduced an API that allows good scrapers to access your data. However, it does not stop the malicious harvesting of information to be used for competitive advantage. The only real defense can be obtained by making use of technology that can block non-human visitors to your website. This allows the real users to access your website while blocking the crawlers from causing damage.

Other effective ways in which one can combat screen scraping are through the use of techniques such as IP reputation intelligence, spoofed IP source detection, request-response behavior analysis, real-time threat level assessment, and geo-location enforcement.