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Ever mistyped a URL while searching for a specific website and ended up on an entirely different site? This misleading strategy is referred to as cybersquatting. This practice not only threatens the online presence of businesses and individuals but also presents a significant hurdle in the constantly changing field of cyber security. The most alarming aspect is that you could fall prey to a cybersquatted domain without even being aware of it.
Here’s what you need to understand about this form of cybercrime:
What Is Cybersquatting?
Cybersquatting, also referred to as domain squatting, is the malicious act of registering a domain name that bears a striking resemblance to that of a legitimate entity, whether it’s a business, organization, or individual. The primary intent behind this action is typically financial profit, with cybersquatters seeking to capitalize on the recognition and success of established brands. However, the consequences go beyond financial losses, as cybersquatting can tarnish the reputation of its victims.
Types Of Cybersquatting
There are numerous types of cybersquatting scams, but here are the most prevalent ones that you should be aware of.
- Exploitation of Top-Level Domain (TLD): A TLD is the final segment of a domain name, such as “.com,” “.co.uk” and “.org.” Given the multitude of variations, it’s challenging for small to medium-sized businesses to register all of them for their brand, and it’s even more difficult for celebrities or famous individuals.
Cybercriminals will register corresponding domains using different TLDs and either establish offensive or inappropriate websites, demanding the original domain owner to pay them to remove them, or they will use these websites to earn customers’ trust and render them vulnerable to phishing attacks.
- Typosquatting: This variant of cybersquatting involves deliberately registering misspelled domain names to take advantage of common typos, directing unsuspecting users to harmful sites.
For instance, if you consider Facebook.com, here’s how a cybersquatter might purchase their domains:
Typos are easy to commit, so misspelled domains can attract a lot of traffic.
- Look-Alike Cybersquatting: This type of cybersquatting involves generating domains with common words added to mislead customers, even if they aren’t confusingly similar at first glance.
Here are a few examples:
- Original: Google.com
- Original: Amazon.com
Lookalike: amaz0n.com or amazon1.com
- Original: Microsoft.com
- Original: Google.com
At first glance, you might not think these would easily deceive users, but they do!
How To Avoid Becoming A Cybersquatting Victim
You can prevent becoming a cybersquatting victim by adopting a proactive approach. Here are a few measures to take:
- Register Your Trademark: Registering your trademark early can be beneficial to avail the full protection of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) and Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). These regulations will still apply if a cybercriminal registers a cybersquatting domain name and you have an unregistered trademark; however, you’ll need to demonstrate you were using it for business before the domain was registered. While trademarks aren’t mandatory, they can simplify this process.
- Purchase Multiple Prominent TLDs: When you register your domain, also register it with the most popular TLDs, like .co and .org.
- Exercise Caution When Visiting Websites: When inputting URLs into the address bar, double-check to ensure you’re navigating to the correct website.
This also applies to links you click! Hover over links with your mouse to verify that it is the correct link. For added security, avoid clicking links and manually type them into the search bar.
Cybersquatting is merely one technique that hackers employ to wreak havoc. Cybercriminals are perpetually devising innovative methods to defraud businesses and individuals. If you’re keen on bolstering your security to safeguard yourself and your company from crafty attackers, we’re here to assist.
We’ll carry out a FREE, no-commitment Security Risk Assessment, during which we’ll scrutinize your network security solutions to pinpoint any potential vulnerabilities to an attack and assist you in formulating a strategy to guarantee your protection. Click here to schedule a FREE 10-minute Discovery Call with our team to commence.
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