If you have a website, you may be aware of the risks, such as scraping and hacking. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent such activities.

Website scraping and/or hacking are becoming more prominent as the number of internet users – and web pages – continues to increase. Although these acts can cause a lot of damage, there are ways to protect yourself and your website against them. You should know how these attacks generally occur, and the common areas of weakness for which attackers are looking. The more aware you are of these types of threats, the less likely you are to become a victim of an attack.

Malicious Act that Can Cause Damage

If you own a website, you may be familiar with hacking or content theft. These two malicious acts can cause a lot of damage in a very short period of time. Although these acts are similar in many ways, there are differences of which to be aware. Additionally, you can take preventative measures to keep your website safe from content theft and hacking.

Website scraping essentially means copying all of a website’s data. This act may be considered vital for a business in one office, while another might refer to it as theft. Unfortunately, it is a relatively common occurrence among websites. For example, Francis Irving, the head of Scraper Wiki, claims, “Every corporation does it, and if they tell you they’re not they’re lying.”

Most of the time, the websites being targeted are those that have something of value to offer to their rivals. Scraping can be a time-consuming act, but many businesses consider it to be crucial for staying ahead of the latest trends and statistics. It may seem to be a malicious act, but according to Shay Rapaport, co-founder of Fireblade, an anti-scraping firm, the act is not illegal in many countries. As a result, many big companies freely scrape content, which is then occasionally “. . . published on the web and re-packaged and sometimes it’s just for internal use and business leads.”

Another common issue for websites is hacking. Most hackers are attempting to access a computer network, whether it’s done legally or illegally. In many instances, the hacker will have unlimited access to a website once the password-protected portion of the site has been broken. Some examples of what a hacker might do includes changing the website content, changing files, and changing the password to the password-protected portion of the website.

Protecting Your Computer

Once you have an understanding of scraping and hacking, you will know why it is so crucial to protect your website and your computer from these malicious acts. Although these actions can be quite damaging when they occur, there are a number of ways to minimize your risk. Some examples of how to prevent your website from being scraped or hacked include:

  • Installing antivirus protection. Many criminals gain access to your personal information by installing a virus, Trojan, or worm on your computer. Once these sneaky devices have been installed, they can hunt down and steal your data and personal information in a matter of minutes. For ultimate protection, keep your antivirus program running at all times and be sure to keep it updated. Some best protections available are Immunet, AVG and Avast. 
  • Use strong passwords. A strong password generally contains many characters, and is changed, at a minimum, once each year. A good rule of thumb is to create a password that has upper and lowercase letters, number, symbols, and characters. Don’t use anything that can easily be linked to you, such as your birth date or phone number. Avoid posting personal information on the internet, including social media sites, as it may fall into the wrong hands. 
  • Change default usernames. If you are installing a program, it may come with a username. Although this may seem convenient, it is an open invitation for anyone who wants to get access to your computer. Be sure to replace a provided username with one that will be difficult for anyone else to guess. 

Spam Bots

Another type of malicious act is the use of spam bots. A spam bot is an automatically generated computer program that helps to send out spam. Many spam bots are able to crack passwords and access individual accounts. A surprisingly large number of website visits are linked to bot traffic. According to Incapsula, nearly 60 percent of all visits can be traced back to bot traffic. Since spam bots focus on email links and other types of links, a good way to detect and stop spam bot traffic is to hide your email address from the bots. An example is: sam(at)yahoo.com.

There are many potential threats to website owners, from hacking to scraping and spam bots. These online threats can find ways to steal your personal information and access your accounts, which may be very damaging. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your risk of falling prey to these malicious acts.