The internet is a valuable tool. However, every time you log in, you run the risk of having your personal information compromised. That’s because clever hackers know how to exploit even the smallest mistakes that users make during ordinary browsing sessions.
Don’t believe it? Ask yourself this question: How many typos do you make on a regular basis?
Even the most accomplished typists make a few — and let’s face it, most of us are rushing through whatever it is we are writing on the internet. But there are certain times when it pays off to be a little more careful about what you are entering into search bars and text boxes.
A recent article on Bankrate highlights a practice called “typosquatting,” noting that it could result in identity theft if victims are not careful. The practice relies on the fact that many people tend to make similar mistakes when typing in popular websites. Hackers can exploit this tendency to redirect people to fake versions of websites where they might be encouraged to enter personal information.
“When you look at people who are typing in domain names, when they type them into web browsers at home, we find that with a certain regularity, people make the same typos over and over again,” Matthew Green, an assistant research professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute in Baltimore, told the news source. “People anticipate that, and they try to go out and find those common misspellings, and they register them and put up copies of a bank’s website that look identical, and then they use them to get people’s credentials. The idea is to put out a net. You hope that some people will make some mistakes.”
It’s possible that you have already experienced something like this. If you’ve ever incorrectly typed the URL for a popular website like Facebook of Google, you may have found yourself looking at a page full of advertisements instead of your actual destination. This is because individuals and groups will sometimes purchase URLs that are similar to major sites in order to direct more traffic in their direction. It is often a relatively innocuous practice, albeit an underhanded one. But it can also be used for truly nefarious purposes.
For example, imagine that you are logging into your bank account online. You type the URL incorrectly but don’t notice it. Hackers have created a website that mimics that of your bank at this incorrect URL, and for all you know, you’re at the right place. But once you type in your username and password, you have effectively given identity thieves access to your bank account.
Major websites have attempted to crack down on typosquatting by buying up any URL that is similar to their own. However, it costs money to register a domain, and not everyone has the resources to purchase every single one that they can think of. For this reason, consumers need to be proactive about protecting their personal data from those who would try to exploit it. For the best protection, consider signing up for a credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain activity on your credit file that may be indicative of fraud.