Flexmls IDX: First to Gain Security Against Screen Scrapers

Dec 3, 2014 Michael Wurzer

It’s no secret that data theft and misuse is a problem in our industry. As the subject of countless articles, expensive lawsuits and most recently, the impetus for the creation of Redplan™, (described on their website as: “an association owned and run by its members for the purpose protecting the intellectual property of member companies, promoting the common interests of the real estate information industry and keeping its members informed of pertinent issues”), the impact of real estate data misuse is significant and far-reaching. One major component of data misuse is screen scraping of IDX websites. When listing data is “scraped” or copied from a website, it is often used as content on unauthorized websites or, in other unauthorized manners, violating copyright and creating other negative issues. Screen scraping can (and does) happen on any website displaying listing data.

In 2013, Clareity Consulting Chief Technologist, Matt Cohen wrote a blog that laid out the need for an industry-wide solution with important criteria for evaluating solutions available. In the end, he announced Distil Networks met that very specific criteria and endorsed them as a preferred partner for industry professionals seeking protection from screen scraping.

Here at FBS, we’re focused on delivering the very best product supported by world class service. Naturally, providing the highest level of security is part of that equation. To this end, we’re proud to be the first MLS provider to implement Distil’s powerful product as an extra security layer protecting Flexmls IDX websites.

Here’s the scoop:
According to Distil, the system works like a protective shield and blocks malicious bots in real time while blocking malware and competitors that try to scrape or copy website data without permission when served up on Flexmls-powered websites. Charlie Minesinger, Distil Director of Channel Partners says: “Blocking IPs and using rate limits to protect your online data is obsolete. With Distil Networks and FBS, the MLS and their brokers can rest assured that their data, photos, and copyrights are protected by state of the art technology in the arms race against bots. FBS is now first to market with web-scale platform protected from mischievous bots – no more form spam, click fraud, malicious traffic, nor content/data theft.”

Jaison Freed, FBS Vice President of IT underscored that statement: “Working with Distil Networks, we are able to provide our customers with a public-facing product that allows them to make the MLS data available while protecting it from screen scrapers on that site. MLS organizations can take comfort in knowing that when their data is served up via Flexmls-powered IDX websites, it is protected against scraping.” Additionally, Jaison explained that Distil’s product also provides the FBS network infrastructure with an additional level of protection; traffic from “bad actors” is not allowed in, thus ensuring that resources are only used to serve legitimate customer requests.

We recently shared the good news with Matt Cohen and here’s what he had to say: “MLSs have spent millions of dollars going after screen-scrapers in court – and that’s just going after the ones that have been careless enough to be caught. It’s much more effective just to stop the theft in the first place. By implementing anti-scraping technology, FBS has taken an important first step in protecting its customers’ intellectual property in the MLS system, including client collaboration and framed IDX. Kudos to FBS for being the first major MLS vendor to implement anti-scraping for all its customers. Now it’s up to the MLSs to make sure that their own public listings site (if not being protected by FBS) is protected, and members (and their tech vendors) are doing the same on sites where they display listings. It’s already VOW policy to implement this type of security, and now that the MLS is protected, IDX sites can be similarly required by the MLS, under existing IDX rules. FBS is setting a new standard for MLS data security and providing the basis for an MLS to require their IDX vendors, RETS feed users, agent/broker sites, and portals to have comparable protections on their websites.”

This added layer of security is administered and managed by FBS, (no action is necessary from Flexmls IDX clients).