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Data scraping: Security and privacy risks

The technique of obtaining and collecting data from websites is known as web scraping or data scraping. Data collection is now entirely automated and done with specialized technologies. Regular internet users are frequently involved in the data scraping process on a smaller scale. Users copy and paste information into a locally saved document or file in this manual method.

Businesses commonly use the technology for automated web data extraction. This is an efficient way to collect millions or even billions of data units for data collection, marketing research, lead generation, and pricing comparison.


The dark side of the web scraping technique

Criminals profit from acquiring public data; thus, the security concerns connected with this methodology are unlimited. Data breaches from the Facebook and LinkedIn platforms are two recent examples of how data scraping has affected user privacy. Both breaches were linked to data scraping, exposing over a billion access points to user profile information.

Criminals can design web scraping programs with many objectionable features to defeat target websites’ security mechanisms by gathering more sensitive information from users, increasing the risks of data disclosure and user privacy in various ways.

Due to the high amount of personal information (PII) that users provide daily, social networks are vulnerable to unlawful data scraping. Criminals swiftly take advantage of people’s carelessness on social media sites, personally harvesting information from their profiles. Full names, birth dates, locations, email addresses, phone numbers, jobs, photographs, and any other data that users put on the site are among the information collected.

Criminals exploit this information to initiate phishing attacks via email, SMS, and instant messaging apps. In addition, fraudsters might utilize information gathered about a company’s employees to target specific employees and infiltrate internal networks with ransomware.

Incorrectly designed or unsecured databases containing public user data present additional security threats. Unauthorized groups have gained access to billions of user data sets in recent years, increasing the number of data security breaches and cybercrime victims.


How can regular internet users protect themselves against data scraping incidents?

Although specific internet platforms allow for scraping their users’ data, preventing these behaviors is difficult. Because of the gaps, fraudsters may filter and obtain personal information from users. Limiting the information users submit when creating an account or profile is one of the most significant ways for consumers to protect themselves against unwanted data disclosure due to their gathering on the Internet.

Filtering the data that social network members submit may be helpful if done correctly and with privacy in mind. This method may not be unbeatable, but limiting the amount of publicly available data aggregated and utilized to launch targeted assaults helps protect consumers. You should evaluate your account privacy settings if you haven’t done so since you first enrolled on a platform. Begin by preventing anyone from seeing your email address, phone number, or date of birth on the Internet.