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What is Typosquatting? – Definition and Explanation

what-is-typosquatting-definition-and-explanation

Users love digital purchases and often order their preferred stuff from their desired e-commerce store. 

Sometimes, even if their order is placed and online payment is made, the item has not been delivered to their doorstep. So, they check the issue only to notice that they have mistakenly typed the wrong URL address. 

They are a victim of typosquatting.

It was the user’s misfortune, but as an e-commerce store owner, you are too doomed since you are losing customers due to Typosquatting, your revenues, and your brand reputation. 

So, what exactly is Typosquatting?

What is Typosquatting?

Typosquatting, or URL hijacking, as you name it, is a type of social engineering attack wherein the scammer attacks those users who have mistakenly typed a wrong URL address in the browser. 

This cybersquatting attack is a cybercrime wherein scammers intentionally register domains with spelling mistakes, like the URLs of legit sites. These domains are also termed Typosquatting domains.

Clever hackers create malicious websites with misspelled URLs and trick users into giving their sensitive details on these sites.

Example:hfdcbank.com” instead of “hdfcbank.com

The “typo” word stands for the typing mistakes made by users while entering the URL address.

How does Typosquatting Work?

Let us discover how these typosquatters use fake URLs to gain their desired information by taking advantage of human errors.

There are varied ways in which these scammers perform these attacks.

Let us check them out. 

Types of Typosquatting Attacks:

Typos:

This common error results from a hurried search, i.e., quick typing or depending entirely on the autocorrect option. Users type hurriedly and become a victim of such attacks.

Example: Typing “Faceboook.com” instead of “Facebook.com

Spelling Errors:

Often, ignorant users type wrong spellings since they are unaware of the correct one. Typosquatters take advantage of such misspelled domains. 

Business owners are now becoming cautious of such crimes and register these misspelled domains to reroute them to their legit sites.

Alternate Spellings:

Variations in varied languages lead to different spellings for one word. 

If your URL address comprises a word with alternate spellings used in different countries, it could be a typing error, leading the user to a fake URL.

Example:Color and “Colour” are spelled differently in different countries. For example, in America, the word is spelled as “Color,” whereas, in Britain, the word is spelled as “Colour.”

Hyphenated Domains:

The inclusion or exclusion of a hyphen in the domain name can cause a Typosquatting attack.

Example: The legit URL “ABCecommercestore.com” can be used by typosquatters by creating an additional hyphen, i.e., “ABC-commercestore.com

A quick look can easily deceive users into believing that the site is legit, whereas the same can be a fake one transmitting malware or other viruses.

Using Wrong Domain Extensions:

Varied domain extensions used in different countries like, .com, .net, .us, .co, .co.uk, .org, etc. enhances the extent of Typosquatting.

Users may be aware of the perfect domain name but unsure about the domain extension and prey to such attacks.

Site owners should register varied domain extensions to prevent their customers from falling into the traps of these typosquatters.

Adding Supplements to the Domain Names:

Yet another Typosquatting attack is made by adding supplements in the domain names to make their fake sites sound more legitimate.

For example, “Amazon.com” is a legit site, whereas “amazon-store.com” can be a fake domain sounding legit.

Leaving/Adding Letters or Punctuation Marks:

Instagram.com” can be written as “Instagram.cm” to lure users to a fake site.

Apart from these attacks, eliminating the dot after www, switching of letters, using dual letters, using similar characters (I and l), wrong key press, etc., are also some more Typosquatting attacks, which need to be monitored and addressed with caution. 

Dangers of Typosquatting:

The enhancement in Typosquatting by hackers has led big corporate giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc., to register these Typosquatting domains to prevent disasters. 

Typosquatting owners of fake sites try malicious activities like installing malware, luring users to click links for installing compromised codes, routing them to fake sites for gaining their sensitive information, etc. Hence, blocking these domains is yet another option that can prevent Typosquatting.

Few More Hazards of Typosquatting Domains are:

Bait & Switch:

The fake site redirects you to buy your desired item from the legit site, but you never receive your item, even after making the payment.

Domain Parking:

Domain parking registers the domain name without connecting with the respective site or e-mail id. The owner of the Typosquatting domain tries to make money out of these unused domains by selling the same to the victim at a huge price.

Joke Site:

Scammers may try to route you to fake sites, which make fun of your desired site.

Gaining Money from Search Results:

The fake owner carries the traffic of the legit site to the competitors and gains revenue from such attempts by charging them.

Surveys:

The fake site comprises survey forms for the motivated users to fill the same. They then steal their confidential information and misuse it.

Monetize Traffic:

Fake sites place advertisements for customers and try to increase the revenue from the network traffic.

Affiliate Links:

The fraudulent site forwards the traffic back to the legit site via affiliate links and gains commission.

Installing Malware:

This is a common motto of typosquatters. They create fraudulent sites to transmit malware into the user’s devices. 

Phishing:

Phishing sites have been created to mirror legit sites to gain customer personal information, like bank account details, credit card details, login credentials, etc. 

How to Avoid Typosquatting?

  • The foremost step which needs to be taken by companies is to register and buy all the typo domains (domains like their site domain) and reroute the same to their site. 

Apart from this, registering other domain extensions of varied countries and domains with alternative spellings and implementing different variants can also reduce the impact of this cybersquatting attack. 

  • Domain names are a pivotal part of the business, and hence companies should register their domain names with TMCH (Trademark Clearing House) and secure their trademarks.

All the uncertified/unlicensed domain registrations created by typosquatters are blocked, and misuse is prevented.

  • Install an SSL certificate on your website to highlight the authenticity of your website. This, in turn, helps gain user trust who are assured that their data is secured on such SSL equipped sites with encryption. SSL certificate is issued to a particular domain name.

ssl cert

The absence of an SSL certificate indicates a phony website; even browsers show a warning about an insecure website.

Wrapping Up:

To secure yourself from these typosquatters, check the URL spellings of the websites with caution before viewing them or clicking any links.

There are private tools like Domain Research Suite and Typosquatting Data Feed which help in preventing Typosquatting and detecting fake domains created for malicious uses.

Online frauds are never-ending, and you need to use the necessary tools and precautions to prevent them from entering your digital infrastructure.

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