Ever since the requirement for websites and domain names started booming on the Internet, people started cybersquatting for personal gains, often monetary. Cybersquatting or URL Hijacking simply means squatting or sitting on the cyber or domain name of someone else. It involves buying website URLs of popular business names or trademarks so that they can resell them at a cost. Typosquatting, on the other hand, makes use of common typing mistakes when typing the domain name of popular websites in the address bar to extract information by fake websites.
In short, Cybersquatters register domain names containing trademarked terms, with a view to making an illegal profit from them or to misuse it, whereas Typosquatters register domain names using misspelled words or large popular websites, with malicious intent.
What is Cybersquatting
In the early days when websites were just blooming, web users understood the need for businesses to have a website. Many business houses, including reputed companies, did not set up websites.
So there was this set of people who started buying URLs (domains) that look like the websites of such enterprises. For example, if Samsung was not taken up, cybersquatters bought www.samsung.com so that when Samsung wanted this domain name website, it had to pay a fortune to get back the URL www.samsung.com.
Cybersquatting is related more to already established business houses that have a good reputation but do not have a related website. For instance, someone bought surfacephone.com as soon as the phones were announced. In such a case, the company may pay the other person and buy the domain name or it may initiate legal proceedings to procure the domain name.
There are legal methods to get back such URLs, but the legal processes are too long and more costly than simply buying back the URL. The reputation and trademarks of a company or business become a URL. If you have a huge business called XYZ Services and a trademark saying XYZ Services, people will obviously think that your website will be www.xyzservices.com. But since XYZ Services did not think about registering this domain on the web, someone already bought the URL. Now to host its own website and to prevent damage to its reputation, XYZ Services will have to buy back the URL from whoever purchased it.
If you have a huge business called XYZ Services and a trademark saying XYZ Services, people will obviously think that your website will be www.xyzservices.com. But since XYZ Services did not think about registering this domain on the web, someone already bought the URL. Now to host its own website and to prevent damage to its reputation, XYZ Services will have to buy back the URL from whoever purchased it.
Even if you do have a site say www.ABC.com, cybersquatters will register a different top-level domain like say ABC.net or ABC.us, in the hope that the main website will some day buy it off their hands at a handsome profit.
What is Typosquatting
These are the most dangerous kinds – often used for Phishing. People make typographical errors while typing in the address bar. If someone wants to benefit from a well-known reputation, he or she will buy domains looking like the genuine URL but actually containing a typo.
For example, to fool people, someone might buy linkdin.com or linked.in because linkedin.com already exists and is popular amongst career-minded people. There can be a faceboook.com that looks like www.facebook.com but has an extra ‘o’.
The intention in typosquatting is always harming people – stealing their identities and making profits while with cybersquatting, some of the cases might be genuine. Users might not have known about a company in some other part of the world and might have bought a related URL. The user may or may not sell back the URL in innocent cases. But typosquatting is deliberate planning to skim Internet users.
How to deal with Cybersquatting and Typosquatting
While it is already known that people involved in typosquatting do it for malicious gains, it is a little tough to establish whether cybersquatting was done on purpose or if it was just a coincidence. The first thing is to check what you find when following the cyber squatted URL. If it leads to a parked website, site under construction, and ‘site for sale’ web page, it is definitely a case of cybersquatting. If there is a full fledged website being hosted at the domain, it might be an innocent case.
It is sometimes hard to prove that the person who is owning a cyber squatted domain actually did it with the intention to misuse your business name and reputation. You can either contact the site owner and make him an offer or you may contact lawyers in your area and go ahead and file a case against cyber criminals. This is a decision you have to take. A legal proceeding takes up both time and money and as such, some people avoid that route and prefer to pay up. It also depends on the mindset of the other person. If he indeed is a cybersquatter, he is sure not to give in without a legal fight.