Overview of URL Hijacking and The Working Mechanism of Typosquatting

Do you know how much a misspelt word can cost you? It frequently happens that often we enter the wrong URL with mismatched letters. So what is typosquatting, and how it can affect you? Typosquatting occurs when we commit such typographical errors.

If a user accidentally enters a wrong URL, this incorrect URL may redirect the user to an alternate website. Designed by threat actors and hackers, this alternate website is malicious and can severely affect your device’s integrity.

Also known as URL hijacking, typosquatting can cause significant reputational damage to organizations. Typosquatting is a form of social engineering attack that relies on misspelt domains. Hackers design fake websites that imitate the look and feel of your intended destination.

These websites exist to sell products and services that compete with products sold on the original website. Threat actors register domain names similar to legitimate domains. Hackers fool victims into believing that they are interacting with the actual company.

The Working Mechanism of Typosquatting

Malicious actors can impersonate domains using:

  • A typical misspelling of the target domain
  • Mixing related words into the domain
  • Addition of periods to the URL
  • Using a different top-level domain
  • Leveraging similar-looking letters to hide the false domain

Typosquatting is a lookalike domain with one or two wrong characters. It is essential to deploy adequate typosquatting protection to prevent people from visiting a malicious website. Nowadays, registering a domain is easy, and threat actors can register several variations of the original target URL.

Typosquatting leverages on simple human errors or confusion like:


Typos are the most common error when entering search information. Those who type quickly or rely on autocorrect features are prone to becoming victims of typosquatted websites.

Spelling Errors

Typos are not the only reason for the occurrence of typosquatting. At times, a user may not know the correct spelling of a specific URL. Malicious actors know this well and can leverage this weakness. For this reason, many organizations register misspelt variants of their website’s name.

The Objectives of Typosquatting

Here are the objectives of typosquatting you should know.

  • Extortion

The threat actor may leverage typosquatting to extort money from the original website owner.

  • Ad Fraud

Malicious hackers may use typosquatting to create ad frauds on a larger scale. They can monetize the domains with ads from visitors through incorrect spellings and redirect visitors to competitors. They can also redirect traffic back to the brand itself through the affiliate link.

  • Theft of Information

Threat actors may extract sensitive information through phishing emails or landing pages of websites.

The primary motivation for typosquatting is always financial in the end. The end goals associated with URL hijacking are theft of intellectual property and money. In other cases, malicious attackers may use hijacked domains to execute several attack types.

Dangers associated with Typosquatting

Many large-scale organizations have now realized the hazards of typosquatting. They are registering typographical error variations of their domain. Other companies are blocking typosquatting domains through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) service.

Many owners of typosquatted domains act with malicious intent. Other objectives of URL hijacking are to install malware and steal credit card numbers. Here are the dangers associated with typosquatting.

  • Domain Parking

The typosquatted domain owner with malicious intent aims to sell the domain to the victim at exorbitant prices.

  • Joke Website

The typosquatted website makes fun of the brand name or the trademark.

  • Switch and Bait

The fake website sells users something you would like to buy at the correct URL but doesn’t ship you the item.

  • Monetize Traffic

Malicious website owners, with the help of typosquatted websites, display pop-up ads to generate advertising revenue. This is more common in affiliate marketing.

  • Affiliate Links

The fake website redirects traffic back to the brand through affiliate links to earn a certain amount of commission.

Ways in which Typosquatting affects Website Owners

  • Website owners can take a massive hit on their integrity when malicious hackers exploit their users with typosquatting
  • Losing traffic to illegitimate and typosquatted websites
  • Higher risk of losing trustworthy customers

The primary plot of an attacker leveraging typosquatting is to lure unsuspecting users to a fake and malicious website. Attackers can even request unsuspecting users to reveal their bank account details and sensitive passwords.

Most typosquatted domains redirect to fake versions of betting platforms, adult content, etc. Organizations should deploy the right solutions to counter the threats of typosquatting.

How can Virus Positive Technologies help you Thwart Typosquatting? If you want to secure your affiliate network, it is essential to thwart the threats of typosquatting. With VPT, you can stay safe from a typosquatting attack. The fraud detection solutions offered by VPT can recognize malicious affiliates from stealing your marketing team’s traffic.

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