Recent Blogs

How to Prevent Data Harvesting

14 April 2022

Whether we are conducting personal or work-related tasks online, our data privacy is always vulnerable to cybercriminals who can track our online activity, steal our data and perform malicious acts. Basically, that is what data harvesting or web scraping is all about. 

It refers to how automated software programs and expert data analysts extract raw data from websites for malicious purposes. In this article, we will look in detail at how data harvesting is done and how to prevent data harvesting.

How Can Your Data Be Harvested Online?

Cyber terrorists use a malicious bot in the form of a small script to obtain large amounts of data from websites for unlawful purposes. This data extraction technique is both cheap and easy. Therefore, data swindlers use it frequently to acquire information such as email addresses, photos, texts, and contact lists.

Databases and social media websites are especially at higher risk of data scraping. The malicious bot cycles through the database and retrieves every record, downloading your data without your consent. 

How Does Data Harvesting Affect Your Website?

Data harvesting is detrimental in the following ways:

• Breach of privacy

• Data loss

• It affects your site’s ranking on search engines

• Reduced page load speed

• Valuable information such as contact details may be scrapped, leading to the loss of market advantages.

Top Ways To Protect Your Website From Data Harvesting

To avoid falling prey to data harvesters, protect yourself by adhering to the following safety tips: 

• Use the CAPTCHA Method to Verify Humans

CAPTCHA  is an effective security solution that protects your site from digital entry and data harvesting. It uses various measures to shield against bots by displaying a code that humans can only detect. This way, only those with the correct passwords to your accounts can assess them.

• Protect Your Data With a VPN

With a Virtual Private Network, you can secure your online identity and keep your personal information safe. When you install a VPN on your device, your data is encrypted using technology that masks your online activity from spyware, as well as your service providers. Additionally, a secure VPN protects your privacy when you access the internet using public Wi-Fi networks. 

• Install Antivirus Software 

Security software and programs such as antivirus help keep your data safe from harmful scripts spying on your website. They identify malicious malware and block them from operating secretly on your device. Just make sure you install your security software from a reliable supplier. 

• Keep Away From Free Applications and Software

If you want to install an application onto your device, ensure you obtain it from a credible source. Avoid free software as appealing as it may look since they may access your sensitive information and use it wrongfully. 

Trusted sources are typically paid and have clear privacy policies that require you to agree before installing their software. These policies outline all legal responsibilities of the software and other vital concerns. 

On the other hand, unknown sources may obtain your private information and trade it to third-party agencies such as advertisers. Therefore, it would be best to be cautious about where you download software such as VPN and antivirus. 

• Controlled Access 

As mentioned earlier, there are methods of data harvesting that entirely target databases. However, you can build a feature within your database system that controls access to records. This way, you can only access the records that are identical to the search criteria of the database. When a bot tries to retrieve data that does not match its search criteria, it is automatically blocked, and your data remains safe. 

• Use Complex IDs

Bots can track your online activity and analyse your habits. For example, if your database is secured with sequential ID forms or auto-numbers as database keys, your data is at risk of being harvested without your consent. This is because bots can easily manipulate these sequential IDs, cycle through your records and extract sensitive information from your end. 

It is crucial to use more complicated IDs like GUID, which retrieves data using random and hidden sequence IDs. Alternatively, you may set access to require two fields as it is difficult for the bot to guess both.

• Avoid Malicious Links Such as Phishing Emails

Harmful bots may also enter your computer through malicious links. Although they are commonly marked as SPAM, these malicious bots can be sent as legitimate email messages from an unknown sender. In addition, they often carry compelling messages such as job offers or huge money guarantees. 

Statistics show that in 2020, phishing emails were responsible for over 50% of all digital vulnerabilities. Therefore, protect your data security and refrain from clicking on links attached to such emails since they might be targeting your sensitive information for harvesting. 

Final Takeaway

Securing your database with a password may not be a totally reliable way of restricting access. This is because there are several ways in which your data can be scraped or mined. 

To avoid data loss and breach of privacy, it is crucial to employ the tips outlined above on your website. You should also partner with a reliable IT support company to help you secure your data. 

If you want to take charge and safeguard the privacy and protection of your users then get in touch with ICT Solutions today!