Misspelled Children's Web Sites Lead to Porn

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Children's Web sites are frequent targets of typo-squatting, a growing category of online fraud which lures unsuspecting Web surfers to malicious sites when they misspell the URL. Some typo-squatters lure children to pornographic Web sites."

More than 60 of the "most squatted" sites are designed to appeal to minors, McAfee found in new research that quantifies the problem of typo-squatting. Domain names that are commonly targeted include webkinz.com, clubpenguin.com and neopets.com, McAfee says.

McAfee identified 127,381 sites suspected of typo-squatting, and said 46,000 contained some adult content. Some of these URLs are common misspellings of children's Web sites, McAfee states.

For example, people who misspelled the URLs for a Web site devoted to Indian children, and another site that sells expensive dolls, were redirected to a page advertising "Asian babe cams" and "adult toy parties."

Typo-squatting is nothing new, but is becoming more common. Increasing use of automation to buy and sell vast numbers of domain names is contributing to this trend, along with five-day free trials being offered for new domain registrations.

"Cybersquatting cases filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) arbitration system increased 20% in 2005 and another 25% in 2006," McAfee writes in its report. "Microsoft says that 'on an average day more than 2,000 domain names are registered that contain Microsoft trademark terms.'"

McAfee's report, titled What's In A Name: The State of Typo-Squatting 2007, details the scope of the problem.

"A typical consumer who misspells a popular URL has a 1 in-14 chance of landing at a typo-squatter site," McAfee writes.

Game sites -- such as miniclip.com and runescape.com -- are the most frequent targets, having a 14% chance of being squatted. Airline sites are next at 11.4%; mainstream media sites like vh1.com and qvc.com are third at 10.8%; dating sites are fourth at 10.2%; and technology and Web 2.0-related sites are fifth at 9.6%.

"These squatter-run sites generate click-through advertising revenues, lure unsuspecting consumers into scams and harvest e-mail addresses to flood users with unwanted e-mail," McAfee states in a press release.

Apple's iPhone is becoming a frequent target of typo-squatting. There could be at least 8,000 URLs registered using the word iPhone by the end of the year, according to an estimate cited by McAfee.

"Freeappleiphonesnow.com claims to offer free iPhones and variants that don't even exist (like the iPhone 'shuffle' and 'nano')," the McAfee report states. "The URL is nothing more than a redirect to royalsweeps.com. When we tested the site, we received debt consolidation offers, get rich quick solicitations, 'free' cell phone prizes and other questionable e-mail."

This story, "Misspelled Children's Web Sites Lead to Porn" was originally published by Network World.

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