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Web scraping and data theft on the increase

The past year has seen an increase in the quantity and complexity of scraping attacks.

By Duncan Macrae

The number of worldwide web scraping attacks increased by 10% in 2013 from the previous year, and continues to rise sharply, new research has shown. It marks the fourth year in a row of consecutive growth of scraping activity.

Web scraping – also known as web harvesting or web data extraction – is a computer software technique used to automatically collecting information from the World Wide Web.

The rising threat of web scraping to online businesses has been outlined in Sentor’s ScrapeSentry Scraping Threat Report 2014, issued this week.

By analysing ScrapeSentry’s Global Scraping Intelligence Platform, a large database for scraping related activity, Sentor was able to demonstrate that web scraping rates grew rapidly during 2013.

Commenting on the growth, Sentor’s co-founder Martin Zetterlund, said: "Without exception, there has been an increase in the quantity and complexity of scraping attacks over the past 12 months. Scrapers have become more skilled and motivated in their activity. It is very concerning that web scraping is one of the least understood and recognised security threats to online businesses.

"There are growing numbers of people who are dependent on efficient scraping for profit and they are improving their ability to mimic normal users and to avoiding being blocked. Companies need to realise that the threats are increasing and that scrapers are becoming more determined to circumvent the barriers and exploit ignorance."

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As the world’s first organisation to identify the threat of Web Scraping to online businesses and to develop the solution, ScrapeSentry, in 2006, Sentor is the global leader in anti-scraping and works with many high profile organisations to protect them from scrapers.

Highlights from the ScrapeSentry Threat Report 2014 includes:

– 10% increase in scraping attacks in 2013.

– Continued yearly increase in overall scraping activity for the fourth year in a row.

– 18% of visitors to websites are identified as scrapers and makeup 23 % of all traffic.

– More than 90 % of all scraping traffic is identified as professional or advanced.

– More than 50 % of all scraping activity originated from either China, USA or Australia.

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