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Domain Typosquatting Study

January 20, 2015

Researchers from Stony Brook University in the USA and University of Leuven in Belgium have published results from a seven-month long study into typosquatting.

Typosquatting is the practice of registering domain names that are misspellings of a brand or business. The tactic relies on users who enter an incorrectly spelled domain name into their browsers.

Typosquatting may be done to present advertising related to the brand in question, or a competing brand. It can also be used for darker purposes, such as infecting wayward online travelers with malware.

The Belgian-US study collected more than 900 GB of typosquatting data and was the largest exercise of its kind to date.

The researchers found that of the top 500 domains, 477 have at least one malicious typosquatting domain. However, only 156 of those had defensive domain registrations - defensive meaning the brand owner had registered the typo domains or had control of them.

In the case of the 68.8% that did not have any defensive registrations, "anyone who makes a typo for these domains and does not receive an error, is sure to land on a malicious typosquatting page," says the study paper.

The researchers were also disturbed by the fact that out of the three banks in its top 500 list, only one had defensive registrations.

For Australian domain registrants, typosquatting isn't a huge issue in the .AU space. This is due to more complex registration process and the fact pricing of AU domains is significantly higher than for extensions such as .COM.

The study notes for the Brazilian and Japanese TLD's (both of which are expensive to register), "scarcity of typosquatting domains for these TLDs can be attributed to the high cost of acquiring such domains."

The fully study paper, A Longitudinal Study of Typosquatting Abuse, can be viewed in full here (PDF).

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