SCREEN SCRAPING: Definition Tools & How It Works

SCREEN SCRAPING
Photo by Markus Spiske

With online data gathering driving corporate growth, it’s no wonder that there’s a desire to collect as much as possible. Separate tools are required to scrape different sorts of data, and screen scraping is one of them. It’s great for getting data from areas that other scrapers can’t.
In this article, we will discuss screen scraping and related security implications. We’ll also go over the use cases and key distinctions between screen scraping and web scraping.

What is Screen Scraping?

Screen scraping is commonly linked with collecting visual data from a source programmatically, but it can also apply to retrieving text data from a computer display terminal. It is now pulling data from graphical user interface (GUI) panels in apps and websites.

This procedure entails capturing screen display data from one application and translating it so that another application can display it. It is common practice to present data from legacy systems using more current user interfaces.

How Does Screen Scraping Work?

The process of screen scraping involves using a program or “bot” that gains access to a customer account and automatically grabs the data on the screen in the background, without the user’s knowledge.
Screen scraping, in particular, operates as follows:

  • The customer provides their login information to a third-party provider (TPP).
  • The TPP uses these details to log into the customer’s bank account.
  • The TPP then scrapes or copies the customer’s bank data for usage outside of the customer’s banking interface.

In effect, the company performing the screen scraping is mimicking the user (with their consent).
Allowing a TPP to access and scrape your financial data as part of smart budgeting software so it can leverage insights from the data to recommend better ways to budget and save is a common form of screen scraping you may face.

What Screen Scraping Used For?

Screen scraping has various applications that can be divided into two categories. There are cases of sensitive data collection where the user must provide login or account credentials to a business in order for the screen scraping to take place (also known as credential sharing).
There are also various use cases that merely scrape publicly available data, such as powering comparison websites, validating ad placements, and transferring data from legacy applications to new apps.

When it comes to use cases involving credential sharing, common examples include:

#1. To gain access to and analyze bank account data

Financial services can scrape a customer’s account information to log into that customer’s bank account and then capture the customer’s bank data for use outside of their app, which is perhaps the most common use of screen scraping.

#2. To begin payments

This is an example of a company ‘taking an action’ rather than simply collecting data. Assume a provider has permission to access your bank account. It may start a payment to another account. To take advantage of a better interest rate, a smart budgeting tool may need to transfer money into a different account you own.

#3. Checks for affordability

If a company wishes to investigate your financial history and spending habits, it may ask you to consent to the scraping of your bank account for pertinent information. If you were to take out a loan, for example, the loan provider may utilize screen scraping to rapidly determine whether you can afford the loan.

#4. To save data for future use

A large portion of credential sharing via screen scraping is done to create a more complete picture of your financial footprint. A company may collect this data to store and utilize later.

#5. To steal data

While the bulk of screen scraping is done with the consent of respectable companies, cybercriminals can also use it to steal data from unsuspecting web users.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Screen Scraping?

The primary advantage of screen scraping is that it allows businesses to acquire client information automatically and on a large scale.
However, there are significant disadvantages to using screen scraping to gather sensitive information:

  • It is costly to maintain: Screen scraping is time-consuming to maintain from a commercial standpoint. Because screen scraping technology must recognize every single visual feature of a webpage, even minor changes might severely disrupt or destroy the user experience. As a result, the consumer may be unable to access their bank or other vital services.
  • Data minimization is not included in screen scraping: While a consumer may consent to the usage of their bank information for certain purposes, screen scraping does not allow for data minimization. Data minimization is the process by which a user agrees to only the data that is required to access a certain service. Screen scraping often extracts whatever data is on the screen, making it impossible for users to regulate what is accessed and how it is utilized.

Screen scraping is still legal under PSD2 — the EU rule aimed to enhance competition in the payments industry — as long as certain security precautions are taken, such as identifying the TPP to the bank it is accessing. However, because most banks now provide APIs for access to account data and payments, screen scraping is no longer necessary.

There has been much discussion on whether screen scraping should be completely prohibited. In the United Kingdom, most banks give API access, and several banks that previously supported screen scraping are now forced to migrate to APIs. The European Banking Authority (EBA) has urged for an end to the practice in Europe, but industry conversations are still ongoing.

How To Prevent Screen Scraping

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof solution to avoid unethical screen scraping. There are, however, techniques to help deter it. Screen scraping can be detected by an organization using a few specific characteristics or behaviors. It can be identified if a nonstandard user agent is discovered, JavaScript fails to run client-side, or numerous page request sequences are made.

Screen scraping can be discouraged by taking the following steps:

  • Login requires a password. This will not prevent screen scraping, but it will assist in identifying who is doing it. If a page requires a login, the scraper must include identifying information with each request, which aids in determining who is conducting the screen scraping.
  • Set a rate limit for each IP address. This will slow down queries from computers that make a significant number of requests in a short period of time, which could indicate screen scraping.
  • Make use of CAPTCHAs. CAPTCHAs assist in distinguishing between human users and bots by displaying image-based information that computers struggle to understand.
  • Make use of web application firewalls. A WAF can aid in the detection of signature- or behavior-based actions.
  • Utilize fraud detection software. This aids in detecting screen scraping, maybe even while it is occurring.
  • Set the content to be displayed as an image. This will not prevent screen scraping, but it will prevent apps that cannot translate images from running.

All of these measures can assist in reducing screen scraping, but they will not fully eliminate it. Furthermore, enterprises must ensure that their actions do not degrade the end-user experience. Setting a website’s content to display as an image, for example, can make it difficult for users to locate the page because it affects how search engines find the page as well.

Screen Scraping Tools

If people do not want to screen scrape manually, there are numerous tools that can help automate the process:

#1. UiPath

The UiPath robotic process automation tool can be used for screen scraping by taking bitmap data from a display and comparing it to previously recorded data to interpret it. Full text, native, and OCR screen scraping are all supported by UiPath.

#2. FMiner

This screen scraping program for Windows and macOS offers data collection methods such as screen scraping, web scraping, web data extraction, and web crawling.

#3. Macro Scheduler

Users can use Macro Scheduler to build macros and automate software activities for Windows programs. This program allows you to write a script to screen-scrap data using methods like OCR.

#4. ScreenScraper

ScreenScraper Studio is a tool for developing apps and scripts that allows users to define what they want to scrape and then generate code in languages such as C++, C#, Visual Basic 6.0, and JavaScript.

#5. Existek

Existek provides Screen Scraping Software Automation for Desktop Apps, which includes OCR, system API interception, screen scraping plugins, and browser extensions, and the ability to create standard APIs for text scraping.

#6. Diffbot

Users can utilize this data scraping application to automatically scrape text, videos, and photos. Data from scraping can be supplied and processed in JSON or CSV format.

What is the Distinction Between Open Banking and Screen Scraping?

With the customer’s approval, open banking allows regulated companies secure, limited access to your bank account. Previously, only banks would have had access to that information. Open banking has resulted in a number of new and innovative services that assist people and businesses in making the most of their finances. Payment initiation, in which TPPs make payments on behalf of their clients with their approval, is another example of open banking.

Screen scraping is one method of powering open banking. While other methods are becoming more widespread, screen scraping is still permitted under PSD2 when more contemporary and secure API technology is unavailable or inoperable.

APIs vs. Screen Scraping

API technology is the primary alternative to screen scraping in open banking. APIs connect several apps so that they can exchange data. However, unlike screen scraping, they do so in a secure, consistent, and totally encrypted manner. They also allow for data minimization, which means that portions of account data can be obtained (with the customer’s permission), rather than all of a customer’s data being accessed at once, as is the case with screen scraping.

Banks make their own APIs available for other businesses to connect to. In the United Kingdom, these APIs must adhere to the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) criteria. Those intending to connect to these APIs must first obtain authorization, in this case from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). There are various API standards in the EU, all of which allow suppliers to comply with PSD2.

What is the Distinction Between Web Scraping and Screen Scraping?

In short, the types of data that can be scraped differ between the two approaches. Web scraping tools may scrape websites for data such as URLs, text, photos, and videos. Screen scraping tools, on the other hand, may explore websites, programs, and documents and capture screen input, whether it is text, photos, or charts and graphs.

Web scraping, on the other hand, allows you to go beyond the graphical user interface and extract data from HTML. Screen scraping, on the other hand, focuses on the data found in the user interface. It can only extract visual data from HTML when used with open-source tools like Selenium, which can read HTML code.

Another contrast is that web scraping can collect both public and private data. Screen scraping, on the other hand, doesn’t care how the data is retrieved. It just addresses what is visible on the screen.

Conclusion

In the world of technology, data scraping has evolved into a process that drives corporate growth. While there aren’t many scraping techniques available, screen scraping is a useful choice for capturing screen display data from websites, apps, or documents.

When accompanied by appropriate security measures, it is a safe tool. It’s also vital not to mix up web scraping and screen scraping, as both can scrape various types of data. Nonetheless, organizations can employ both screen scraping and web scraping at the same time to maximize data extraction and therefore elevate their operations.

References

0 Shares:
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like