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Data scrapers used Amazon cloud to reap biz bods' CVs, wails LinkedIn

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LinkedIn is still waging its battle against “scrapers”, who use software to automatically harvest publicly available personal information from the social network.

And that fight has today wound up in a California court where the website's bosses are trying to unmask the miscreants who have reaped the site for users' employment histories and other data.

According to the filing against 10 "John Does" in the US District Court, Northern District of California, the attackers circumvented anti-abuse technologies in LinkedIn's setup – in particular, the technology known as FUSE, which limits the amount of activity on the network a single account can carry out before being blocked.

LinkedIn alleged the scrapers did this by using Amazon's EC2 cloud “to rent virtual computers on which to run their own computer programs and applications".

"Amazon EC2 provides resizable computing capacity ... The Doe defendants used Amazon EC2 to create virtual machines to run automated bots to scrape data from LinkedIn's website”, the complaint alleges.

The scraping took place in May and June, we're told, and LinkedIn says the miscreants used their AWS accounts to create “thousands” of fake profiles (along the way, managing to defeat its CAPTCHAs) to conduct the scraping.

Other security measures the attackers circumvented included “Sentinel”, which limits the number of requests permitted from a single IP address, and the restrictions on crawling that are implemented in its robots.txt file.

LinkedIn hopes that, by bringing the matter to court and triggering a discovery phase, it will be able to force Amazon to hand over identifying information on who created the AWS EC2 accounts.

The full complaint – which alleges counts of computer fraud and abuse; violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; breach of contract; and trespass – is here to read [PDF]. ®

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