Scalping, in the context of cybersecurity, is a technique employed by cybercriminals to quickly purchase large quantities of products or services online, often with the intent of reselling them at inflated prices. This practice is particularly prevalent in the retail and entertainment sectors, where high-demand items such as concert tickets or limited-edition products can be scalped for significant profit.

Scalping is facilitated by automated bots, which can bypass security measures and complete transactions at a speed that is impossible for human users. These bots can cause significant disruption to online retailers and consumers, leading to a lack of availability of products and inflated prices on secondary markets.

Understanding Scalping

Scalping is a form of cybercrime that is driven by the potential for financial gain. Cybercriminals use scalping bots to exploit the supply-demand dynamics of the online marketplace. By purchasing high-demand items in bulk, scalpers can create an artificial shortage, driving up prices on secondary markets and profiting from the price difference.

Scalping is not a new phenomenon, but the advent of the internet and online shopping has made it easier and more profitable. With the ability to operate across borders and at scale, cybercriminals can target multiple online retailers and events simultaneously, increasing their potential profits.

Scalping Bots

Scalping bots are the primary tool used by cybercriminals to carry out scalping. These bots are automated software programs that can perform tasks at a speed and scale that is impossible for humans. They can bypass security measures, auto-fill forms, and complete transactions in a matter of seconds.

Scalping bots are often sophisticated, capable of mimicking human behavior to avoid detection. They can change their IP addresses, clear cookies, and use different user agents to appear as different users. Some bots can even solve CAPTCHAs, a common security measure used by online retailers to prevent automated purchases.

Impact of Scalping

The impact of scalping is felt by both online retailers and consumers. For online retailers, scalping can lead to a loss of revenue and damage to their reputation. Consumers, on the other hand, are often left with no choice but to pay inflated prices on secondary markets or miss out on high-demand items entirely.

Scalping also undermines the fairness and integrity of the online marketplace. It allows a small number of individuals to manipulate the market for their own gain, at the expense of the majority of consumers.

Preventing Scalping

Preventing scalping is a complex task that requires a multi-faceted approach. Online retailers must implement robust security measures to detect and block scalping bots. This can include CAPTCHAs, purchase limits, and bot detection software.

However, these measures are not foolproof. Scalping bots are constantly evolving, and cybercriminals are always finding new ways to bypass security measures. Therefore, ongoing monitoring and updating of security measures is crucial.


CAPTCHAs are one of the most common security measures used by online retailers to prevent automated purchases. They require users to perform a task that is easy for humans but difficult for bots, such as identifying objects in an image or solving a simple math problem.

However, some scalping bots are capable of solving CAPTCHAs, rendering this security measure ineffective. Therefore, online retailers must use more sophisticated CAPTCHAs or combine them with other security measures to effectively prevent scalping.

Bot Detection Software

Bot detection software is another tool that online retailers can use to prevent scalping. This software can identify patterns of behavior that are indicative of bot activity, such as rapid-fire transactions or repeated attempts to purchase the same item.

Once a bot is detected, the software can block its IP address or take other actions to prevent it from completing transactions. However, bot detection software must be constantly updated to keep up with the evolving tactics of scalping bots.

Legal and Regulatory Measures

In addition to technical measures, legal and regulatory measures can also be used to combat scalping. Some jurisdictions have laws that prohibit scalping or regulate the resale of tickets and other high-demand items.

However, enforcement of these laws can be challenging, especially when scalping activities cross borders. Therefore, international cooperation and harmonization of laws may be necessary to effectively combat scalping.


Some jurisdictions have enacted legislation specifically aimed at combating scalping. These laws often prohibit the use of bots to purchase tickets or other high-demand items, or regulate the resale of such items.

However, the effectiveness of these laws can be limited by jurisdictional issues. Scalpers can often operate from jurisdictions where scalping is not illegal, making enforcement difficult.


Regulation can also play a role in combating scalping. Regulatory bodies can impose rules on online retailers, requiring them to implement certain security measures or limit the number of items that can be purchased by a single user.

However, regulation must be balanced with the need to maintain a competitive and efficient online marketplace. Over-regulation can stifle innovation and create barriers to entry, which can be detrimental to consumers and the economy as a whole.


Scalping is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive approach to address. While technical measures such as CAPTCHAs and bot detection software can help prevent scalping, they are not foolproof. Legal and regulatory measures can also play a role, but they must be balanced with the need to maintain a competitive and efficient online marketplace.

Ultimately, the fight against scalping is an ongoing battle. As long as there is a potential for profit, cybercriminals will continue to find new ways to exploit the online marketplace. Therefore, online retailers, consumers, and regulators must remain vigilant and proactive in their efforts to combat scalping.

With cybersecurity threats on the rise, organizations need to protect all areas of their business. This includes defending their websites and web applications from bots, spam, and abuse. In particular, web interactions such as logins, registrations, and online forms are increasingly under attack.

To secure web interactions in a user-friendly, fully accessible and privacy compliant way, Friendly Captcha offers a secure and invisible alternative to traditional captchas. It is used successfully by large corporations, governments and startups worldwide.

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