McAfee Report: What’s In A Name: The State of Typo-Squatting 2007

The extent of typosquatting is discussed in a report released by McAfee. They give the example of Apple and their iPhone and the prediction there will be at least 8,000 domain names using the word iphone will be registered by the end of 2007. Among these will be community fan sites, rumor and hack sites and, of course, scam sites.McAfee studied 1.9 million typographical variations of 2,771 of the most popular and well known Web sites. Of these, they found 127,381 suspected typosquatters.Among McAfee’s key findings are the following:

  • typo-squatting is vast and common, affecting every segment of the Web. 7.2% of the possible typographical errors we studied were actively squatting. In other words, a typical consumer who misspells a popular Web site URL has a 1 in 14 chance of landing at a likely typo-squatter site.
  • The five most highly squatted categories are game sites (14.0%), airlines (11.4%), main stream media company sites (10.8%), adult sites (10.2%) and technology and Web 2.0 related sites (9.6%).
  • Children’s sites are highly targeted by typo squatters. The average for the category is 8.4% and 24 of the top most squatted sites are children’s properties for kids 12 and under. Add in sites like MySpace and Miniclip and more than 60 of the top most squatted sites are properties that appeal to the 18 and under demographic.
  • Squatters follow consumer crowds. Popular, consumer-focused Web sites typically attract more squatters than business to business sites or niche content sites.
  • The incidence of pornographic content on non-adult typo-squatted sites is just 2.4%, suggesting improvement since previous studies by other researchers.
  • Automated ad syndication services like Google’s AdSense enable a significant minority of typo-squatter sites to generate revenue. Google-enabled advertising shows up on 19.3% of all suspected typo-squatter sites in this study. Yahoo-enabled advertising shows up on 4.4% of all suspected typo-squatter sites.
  • The increasing use of automation to buy and sell vast numbers of domains, combined with a 5-day free trial (known as “tasting”) for new registrations to top level domains like dot-com appear to be two significant factors in the rapid growth of typo-squatting.
  • At 3.4%, sites popular outside the U.S. are less than half as likely to be typo-squatted as overall sites.
  • The five non-U.S. countries most likely to have popular sites squatted are the United Kingdom (7.7%), Portugal (6.5%), Spain (5.9%), France (5.4%), and Italy (4.1%).
  • The five non-U.S. countries least likely to have popular sites squatted are the Netherlands (1.5%), Israel (1.1%), Denmark (1.0%), Brazil (0.9%) and Finland (0.1%).
  • The top five parking companies, ranked by the percentage of squatters parked by them, are Information (28.5%), Hitfarm (11.3%), Domainsponsor (2.9%), Sedo (2.5%) and GoDaddy (2.3%). Together, the top five park 47.5% of the squatters we discovered.

The McAfee report also looks at why typosquatting works, or rather, why it is profitable. They say, “Most commonly, typo-squatters make money by putting pay-per-click ads on their domains. The ads are typically generated by keywords related to the misspelled product. For iPhone typos, one might see ads for cell phone accessories, ring tones or calling plans.”Profitable typo-squatting is built click by click, penny by penny. No single misspelled domain will generate enough profit to provide a living to the domain speculator. But a large portfolio of even slightly profitable domains can generate significant income”, as an example in their report, the “Squatter Money Cycle” demonstrates here.McAfee’s report also looks at what is driving the increase in typo-squatting, the decline in adult content on typo-squatters, defines typosquatting, looks at Squatter Frequency for Selected Countries and methods of combating typosquatting.The conclusion drawn is “Ultimately, in our view, typo-squatters fail the added-value test. Parked typo sites filled with pay-per click ads don’t help the consumer find the site he was actually looking for. And they don’t help the company build and brand their product in the way they see fit.”To see the full report, go to us.mcafee.com/root/identitytheft.asp?id=safe_typo&cid=38296

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