Crawling Password Protected Website Online

In previous tutorials, we've learned how to extract data from public websites, writing CSS selectors, pagination and more. In this tutorial, we will learn how to crawl a password protected website online using Agenty.

To crawl a password protected website, first of all we must get authenticated our scraping agent with Username and Password. And then, we can scrape the internal pages as we do with public websites. Scraping the web with Agenty, hosted app is pretty easy and quick to setup using the extension and then we can enter the credentials by editing the scraper in agent editor. This tutorial shows, how to get data from a password protected website after login successfully and then schedule the scraper, to automate your data scraping task.

There are 2 types of authentications:

  • Form Authentication
  • Http Authentication (also called as Basic or Network Authentication)

Form Authentication

The Form-based authentication is most widely used website protection technique, where the websites display a HTML web form to fill in the username, password and click on submit button in order to login and access the secure pages or service. A usual password protected website scraping with form-authentication workflow looks like below:

  1. Navigate to login page.
  2. Enter the Username in input filed
  3. Enter the Password in input field
  4. Click on the Login button
  5. Start scraping internal pages.

Commands

The form-authentication engine in scraping agent has the following commands to interact with a login page using CSS Selectors as the target of any element, this will allow us to complete the initial 1-4 login steps prior to start scraping internal pages.

Navigate

To navigate a particular webpage, for example the login page for authentication

Required Parameters:

  1. Value: A valid URL to navigate.

Type

To type some text in a text box. For example, username or password to the text box

Required Parameters:

  1. Target: A valid CSS selector of text box.
  2. Value: Value to enter in the text box.

Click

To click on a button or a hyper-link

Required Parameters:

  1. Target: A valid CSS selector of button/link needs to be clicked

Wait

To wait (n) seconds before firing the next event

Required Parameters:

  1. Value: Seconds(n) to wait

Select

Select an item from dropdown list

Required Parameters:

  1. Target: A valid CSS selector of dropdown box.
  2. Value: Value needs to be selected.

Clear

To clear a text box

Required Parameters:

  1. Target: A valid CSS selector of text box, drop down to clear.

JavaScript

To inject a JavaScript function

Required Parameters:

  1. Value: A valid JavaScript function

Submit

To submit a form (or to press the Enter key)

Steps

To enable the scrape data behind a login, we need to edit the scraping agent in agent editor by clicking on the Edit tab then go to "Login to website" section to follow these steps:

  1. Click on Edit tab
  2. Go to Login to website section and Enable login as in the screenshot below.

enable login to website

Now go to website you want to login, and check the web page source to analyse the login form. For this tutorial, I'm going to use the cloud.agenty.com itself to demonstrate, so these will the steps I will add to my agent to login successfully.

  • Navigate to https://cloud.agenty.com/
  • Enter user name on text box with CSS selector #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_UserName
  • Enter password on text box with CSS selector #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_Password
  • Click on the Sign In button with CSS selector #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_LoginButton

The target CSS selector can be written with name, class or id. For example, to click on the "Sign In" button all these selectors are valid.

  • #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_Password
  • .StandardButton
  • input[type='submit']

enable login to site for crawling

Once the login configuration part has been completed, save the scraping agent, and scroll up to main agent page to start and test your agent. It's always a best practice to test with few URLs ensure that the agent is login successfully before running a large job. For example, I entered some internal URLs in input which was accessible after login only, and then started the scraping job.

Agenty recommends to run a test job for few URLs, when the agent configuration has been changed. As that will allow to analyse the result to ensure everything is working as expected, instead starting the agent for big list of URLs.

password protected site scraping

Then click on the "Start" button to start the web scraping agent job.

Logs

2019-04-18 16:20:53.6110	TRACE	Logging in via: FORM authentication
2019-04-18 16:20:53.6110	TRACE	Running Login steps
2019-04-18 16:20:53.6266	TRACE	Command: NAVIGATE, Selector: , Value: https://cloud.agenty.com/
2019-04-18 16:20:57.3366	TRACE	Command: TYPE, Selector: #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_UserName, Value: user.name@domain.com
2019-04-18 16:20:57.5134	TRACE	Command: TYPE, Selector: #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_Password, Value: xxxxxxxx
2019-04-18 16:20:57.5466	TRACE	Command: CLICK, Selector: #ContentPlaceHolder1_LoginPanel_LoginButton, Value:
2019-04-18 16:20:57.7136	TRACE	Command: WAIT, Selector: , Value: 5
2019-04-18 16:21:02.7370	TRACE	https://cloud.agenty.com/app/agents
2019-04-18 16:21:03.3620	TRACE	StatusCode: 200

Result

It will take few seconds to initialize and login, then the web scraping agent will start scraping internal pages, and we can see the progress, logs and the final result as per your fields selection in the result output table.

crawled data behind login

HTTP Authentication

The HTTP or basic authentication is a simple challenge which a web server can request authentication information (typically a UserID and Password) from a client. These websites doesn't have HTML web form to type credentials or select using CSS selectors and then click on submit button. Instead the browser open a popup dialog (as in screenshot below) asking for credentials when you visit the secured pages and then the browser use those credentials to convert into a base64 string and send the Authorization header to server to attempt the login.

Basic authentication

In order to crawl the basic-authentication protected websites, we need to use the HTTP-authentication as the type of login in scraping agent and then supply the credentials with these commands:

  1. Edit the scraping agent by clicking on "Edit" tab
  2. Go to Login to website section
  3. Enable the Login to website feature and select the Authentication type as "HTTP-authentication"
  4. Add the Navigate command to go to the login page URL.
  5. Add the Type command with target as username and value as your actual username to login.
  6. Add the Type command with target as password and value as your actual password to login.
  7. Save the scraping agent and re-run.
  8. See the output or logs to ensure the agent is able to login successfully.

The scraping agent automatically logout to the domain after 20 minutes of in-activity on same domain or if the scraping jobs is completed prior to that. So, if you are using throttling feature to delay in sequential requests, be sure there is no gap of more than 20 minutes.

crawl basic authentication protected website

Basic Authentication with FORM

We can also get our agent session authenticated by sending a Navigate request with username and password in the URL itself. Just make a first request using form authentication or Form submit feature with URL format below:

http://<user>:<password>@<host>

For example :

http://my_user_name:my_password@domain.com

basic authentication website crawling with form

Notes

  • When crawling password protected websites, we recommend to spent some time in analysis first, and try to use the specific login page of website instead dialog box or popup login when possible. You may find that by logging in and then logging out, most of the website auto-redirect users on specific login page when logged out.
  • Add a 5-10 seconds of wait after clicking on "Login" button to give enough time to website for auto redirect to main or home page.
  • If the website requires AJAX, JavaScript? Go to Engine section and then enable the JavaScript with Default engine selected.
    Recommendation: Use the FastBrowser engine, if the target website doesn't require JavaScript or images to be loaded for login and also to render internal pages you are crawling.

Wants to extract data behind login? Let the Agenty team setup, execute and maintain your data scraping project - Request a quote