Incident Response, TDR, Threat Management

Common mistypes lead to bots, malware

In a rush to post a clever status update on Facebook? Be careful, you may enter in the wrong address for the popular social networking site and instead land on a page that can harm your computer.

Researchers at security firm Websense reported this week that 62 percent of sites reached when making common misspellings for led to bot networks (24 percent), phishing sites (21 percent) or malware-serving sites (17 percent).

Users also have been led to sites promoting sex or other objectionable material, according to Websense.

Typosquatting, also known as URL hijacking, is a practice employed by cybercriminals who bank on the possibility that users will mistype common domain names when entering them directly into the address bar, a process known as direct navigation.

A 2010 study conducted by FairWinds Partners, an internet strategy consulting firm, analyzed the 250 most trafficked ".com" websites and determined that typosquatting costs these brands $285 million per year "due to unnecessary advertising costs, lost sales, and poor user experiences."

Victim brands do have recourse. They can file complaints under the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers' Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy.

But FairWinds suggests that instead of spending money to try to reclaim all of the misused URLs -- each one costs about $6,000 to reclaim, according to the study -- brands should focus on the most threatening ones.

“Though typosquatting is a serious issue, not all typosquatting domains are equally harmful to a brand or equally worth pursuing,” the study recommended. “Brand owners should have a domain name strategy that determines the worth of a typo domain through components such as the quantity and quality of the traffic it receives, the type of infringement and the content it currently hosts.”

Facebook has gone after typosquatters. In July, it sued Cyber2Media and more than 100 other defendants in federal court in San Jose, Calif., according to a report in Bloomberg.

"We always are looking to aggressively protect both our users and our trademarks, and will use the full range of tools at our disposal to do this," a Facebook spokesman told on Wednesday.

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