Typosquatting

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An incorrectly entered URL could lead to a website operated by a cybersquatter.

Typosquatting, also called URL hijacking, a sting site, or a fake URL, is a form of cybersquatting, and possibly brandjacking which relies on mistakes such as typos made by Internet users when inputting a website address into a web browser. Should a user accidentally enter an incorrect website address, they may be led to any URL (including an alternative website owned by a cybersquatter).[1]

The typosquatter's URL will usually be one of five kinds, all similar to the victim site address:

  • A common misspelling, or foreign language spelling, of the intended site
  • A misspelling based on a typographical error
  • A plural of a singular domain name
  • A different top-level domain: (i.e. .com instead of .org)
  • An abuse of the Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) (.cm, .co, or .om instead of .com)

Similar abuses:

  • Combosquatting - no misspelling, but appending an arbitrary word that appears legitimate, but that anyone could register.
  • Doppelganger domain - omitting a period or inserting an extra period
  • Appending terms such as sucks or -suckes to a domain name

Once in the typosquatter's site, the user may also be tricked into thinking that they are in fact in the real site, through the use of copied or similar logos, website layouts, or content. Spam emails sometimes make use of typosquatting URLs to trick users into visiting malicious sites that look like a given bank's site, for instance.

Magniber ransomware are being distributed in a typosquatting method that exploits typos made when entering domains, targeting mainly Chrome and Edge users.[2]

Motivation[edit]

There are several different reasons for typosquatters buying a typo domain:

  • In order to try to sell the typo domain back to the brand owner
  • To monetize the domain through advertising revenues from direct navigation misspellings of the intended domain
  • To redirect the typo-traffic to a competitor
  • To redirect the typo-traffic back to the brand itself, but through an affiliate link, thus earning commissions from the brand owner's affiliate program.
  • As a phishing scheme to mimic the brand's site, while intercepting passwords which the visitor enters unsuspectingly[3]
  • To install drive-by malware or revenue generating adware onto the visitors' devices
  • To harvest misaddressed e-mail messages mistakenly sent to the typo domain
  • To express an opinion that is different from the intended website's opinion
  • By legitimate site owners: to block malevolent use of the typo domain by others
  • To annoy users of the intended site

Examples[edit]

Many companies, including Verizon, Lufthansa, and Lego, have gained reputations for aggressively chasing down typosquatted names. Lego, for example, has spent roughly US$500,000 on taking 309 cases through UDRP proceedings.[4]

Celebrities have also frequently pursued their domain names. Prominent examples include basketball player Dirk Nowitzki's UDRP of DirkSwish.com[5] and actress Eva Longoria's UDRP of EvaLongoria.org.[6]

Goggle, a typosquatted version of Google, was the subject of a mid-2000s web safety promotion by McAfee, which depicted the significant amounts of malware installed through drive-by downloads upon accessing the site at the time. Later the URL redirected to google.com;[7] a 2018 check revealed it to redirect users to adware pages, and a 2020 attempt to access the site through a private DNS resolver hosted by AdGuard resulted in the page being identified as malware and blocked for the user's security. By mid-2022, it had been turned into a political blog.

Another example of corporate typosquatting is yuube.com, targeting YouTube users by programming that URL to redirect to a malicious website or page that asks users to add a malware "security check extension".[8] Similarly, www.airfrance.com has been typosquatted by www.arifrance.com, diverting users to a website peddling discount travel (although it now redirects to a warning from AirFrance about malware).[9] Other examples are Equifacks.com (Equifax.com), Experianne.com (Experian.com), and TramsOnion.com (TransUnion.com); these three typosquatted sites were registered by comedian John Oliver for his show Last Week Tonight.[10][better source needed] Over 550 typosquats related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election were detected in 2019.[11]

In United States law[edit]

In the United States, the 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) contains a clause (Section 3(a), amending 15 USC 1117 to include sub-section (d)(2)(B)(ii)) aimed at combatting typosquatting.[12][13]

On April 17, 2006, evangelist Jerry Falwell failed to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision allowing Christopher Lamparello to use www.fallwell.com. Relying on a plausible misspelling of Falwell's name, Lamparello's gripe site presents misdirected visitors with scriptural references that are intended to counter the fundamentalist preacher's scathing rebukes against homosexuality. In Lamparello v. Falwell, the high court let stand a 2005 Fourth Circuit opinion that "the use of a mark in a domain name for a gripe site criticizing the markholder does not constitute cybersquatting."

WIPO resolution procedure[edit]

Under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP), trademark holders can file a case at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) against typosquatters (as with cybersquatters in general).[9] The complainant has to show that the registered domain name is identical or confusingly similar to their trademark, that the registrant has no legitimate interest in the domain name, and that the domain name is being used in bad faith.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Example Screenshots of Strider URL Tracer With Typo-Patrol". Microsoft Research. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008.
  2. ^ MalBot (2022-10-25). "Rapidly Evolving Magniber Ransomware". malware.news. Retrieved November 16, 2022.
  3. ^ Claes, Bell (17 August 2015). "'Typosquatting': How 1 Mistyped Letter Could Lead to ID Theft". Bankrate. Archived from the original on 20 August 2015.
  4. ^ Allemann, Andrew (1 November 2011). "Has Lego's $500k Spent on URDP Been a Waste?". Domain Name Wire. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011.
  5. ^ Allemann, Andrew (12 September 2011). "Dallas Mavericks Star Dirk Nowitzki Wins Dispute Over Domain Name". Domain Name Wire. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011.
  6. ^ Allemann, Andrew (5 May 2011). "Eva Longoria Adds .Org to Her Collection". Domain Name Wire. Archived from the original on 7 May 2011.
  7. ^ Allemann, Andrew (23 August 2011). "Google Wants to Take Down Goggle.com Web Site". Domain Name Wire. Archived from the original on 25 August 2011.
  8. ^ Gopalakrishnan, Chandu (5 May 2010). "Your Spelling Errors Can Help Typosquatters Make Big Bucks". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Slavitt, Kelly M. (26 March 2008). "Protecting Your Intellectual Property from Domain Name Typosquatters". FindLaw. Archived from the original on 26 July 2013.
  10. ^ Durkin, J. D. (11 April 2016). "John Oliver Creates Fake Web Sites to Troll Major Three Credit Bureaus". Archived from the original on 14 April 2016.
  11. ^ harrison-van-riper (2019-10-16). "Typosquatting and the 2020 U.S. Presidential election | Digital Shadows". www.digitalshadows.com. Archived from the original on 2021-09-04. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  12. ^ "S. 1255 – Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act". Archived from the original on 21 September 2018.
  13. ^ Metz, Cade (23 October 2008). "Without Typo-squatters, How Far Would Google Fall?". The Register. Archived from the original on 24 October 2008.

External links[edit]