A new feature being rolled out by Microsoft Edge is looking to stop people falling victim to fraudulent sites they might stumble upon if they mistype a URL.
The process of setting up bogus websites to trick people who type URLs into their address bar wrongly is known as ‘typosquatting’. Often, typosquatters will target minor misspelling or foreign language versions of established websites’ URLs.
In some cases, this can simply be a spammy technique that fools users into visiting irrelevant or redundant pages. One example of this we spotted a few years ago was when a site for a loan company* was set up with a URL that replaced the lower case ‘l’ in ‘loan’ with a capital ‘i’. This was presumably an attempt for the bogus site to earn commission, and was sneaky practice, but it can be far worse than this. Cybercriminals have been known to set up sites that appear similar to the one the visitor intended to reach but that have sinister purposes, such as phishing or installing malware on the visitor’s device.
An obvious example of this would be a bogus banking website. Users who type the URL of their bank into the address bar could easily misspell it, fall on a bogus website imitating that of their bank, and unwittingly put their banking password and other personal details into cybercriminals’ hands.
When using search engines like Google, we have become used to them correcting our spelling errors, but URLs still have to be typed exactly as they should be in order to reach the correct website, so browsers like Edge are looking at ways they can advise people that they may have mistyped a URL.
What can I do if my website is typosquatted?
Typosquatters can end up taking traffic away from your site and harming its reputation in the process, so if you run a website, it’s important to be vigilant as to what people might be doing to hijack your URL.
Domain name law website ESQwire.com** argues prevention is better than cure and suggests setting up your own top level domain for your business. If it’s too late for that, most browsers have a facility through which you can report a site as unsafe. That will allow Edge, Chrome, Firefox and other browsers to warn people who fall on these sites.
Typos, whether in the URL or the content of the site itself, are one of the biggest hallmarks of an unsafe or at least unhelpful website, so it makes sense to have content professionally written and edited. To learn more about how quality content can bring traffic and leads to your site, speak to us at Engage Web.