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Typosquat Domain Name Survey Results

December 15, 2011

A survey of several high profile domain names has revealed the incidence of those names having typosquat companions to be very high.

Carried out by security company Sophos, the company applied every possible one-character typo to the domain names of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple and studied what was returned.

Sophos found 61% of Microsoft domain name variations returned typosquat pages, Twitter 74%, Facebook 81%, Google 83% and Apple at 86%. 

Typosquatting is a form of cybersquatting - it's where a party registers domain names that are misspellings of a brand and rely on Internet users who enter an incorrectly spelled domain name into their browsers to stumble upon their site - a fairly common occurrence. 

A typosquat domain will often display advertising, for which the typosquatter is paid when someone clicks on an ad. Typosquat domains are also sometimes used by activists or those with an axe to grind in relation to the company in question, or to infect wayward visitors with malware.

On a positive note, Sophos found only 0.07% of typosquat domains were serving malware. However, 2.7% of the URLs were what Sophos described as related to cybercrime - associated with hacking, phishing, online fraud or spamming. 2.4% were adult or dating sites.

Sophos said many were also "parked" pages, offering to sell the name while also displaying ads.

In regard to the location of the servers on which the typosquat domain names were hosted, the USA was the most common location by a wide margin, followed by Germany, China and the UK respectively.

The study also highlighted the prevalence of "bait and switch" typosquats - where a site will emulate the brand, but redirect the user to competing - and at times, illegal products.

The full details of the Sophos survey can be viewed on the company's blog, Naked Security.

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