How to Protect Against Typosquatting and Combosquatting
Just when you thought your law practice was cyber-safe, along comes a slew of new online scams involving typosquatting and combosquatting.
Typosquatting, also called URL hijacking, relies on user mistakes – such as making a simple typographical error when entering a URL into an internet browser – to direct them to a bogus site or deceive them into divulging sensitive information.
Combosquatting is a similar scam in which cybercriminals create fake domains that appear legitimate because they reference actual businesses (ex: www.yourbank-customerservice.com) with bogus letters or words added.
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How to Protect Against Typosquatting
How it works: “It all starts with a malicious actor registering a domain with a deliberately misspelled name of a popular website,” according to cybersecurity expert Marc Dahan. “That augments the chances of internet users inadvertently misspelling the URL themselves (google vs. goggle). And, in the event the user receives the URL to the masquerading site in a phishing email, there’s a good chance that the typo will be too subtle for the user to notice, and they will click the URL.”
What happens when you take the bait: “Once the user clicks the URL, they are brought to the malicious site,” writes Dahan. “The malicious site can typically be one of two things: A copycat site, designed to look like the misspelled site as much as possible. An independent site that doesn’t attempt to mimic another site but is laden with dodgy advertisements and malware.”
How to defend your firm: Consider registering erroneous versions of your domains yourself. Don’t wait for hackers to beat you to it. “Draw up a list of the most apparent misspellings of your domains and register them,” writes Dahan. “It’s also recommended to register other top-level domains (.org, .co, etc), country extensions, alternate spellings, and hyphenated variants for your domains. You can easily have all of these alternate domains redirected to your official website.”
How to Protect Against Combosquatting
How it works: “A threat actor takes a legitimate domain – let’s use companyco.tld and combine another phrase with the domain name to create something like support-companyco.tld,” according to the cybersecurity site Knowbe4. “The use of additional words help establish context for a phishing scam or simply are benign enough to be ignored by recipients. [S]hould the recipient glance at the domain name, it appears to jibe with the phishing campaign’s theming. So, if it’s an attack purporting to be Paypal, using a domain like wwwpaypal-com.[info] with a cursory glance by a non-vigilant user may actually pass muster.”
What are the red flags? “According to Akamai, the use of the term support is most often used – likely as the foundation of an attack aimed at either obtaining credentials or credit card details by convincing the victim that there’s a problem with their account on whatever website the scam is pretending to be from,” writes Knowbe4. “Without it, they will give the sender domain only a cursory glance (and assume it’s legitimate despite how awful the domain name looks), or completely skip checking the sender domain altogether and take them at their word.”
SOURCES: What is Typosquatting? How can you Defend against it? (comparitech.com); ‘Support’ Tops the List of Combosquatted Domains Used in Phishing Attacks (knowbe4.com); The Most Common Combosquatting Keyword Is “Support” | Akamai
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