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The two biggest issues of domain parking

MItigate cybersquatting and zero-click traffic dangers with Netenrich

Rajarshi Mitra
Post by Rajarshi Mitra Aug 28, 2020

How important is your domain name?

Think about it.

In the digital era, your domain is like your brand’s signature. It is instrumental in determining how your website and business is perceived and is part of your brand identity. Plus, here is another kicker. Quality domains tend to go by very fast forcing companies to either modify their brand name or settle for an inferior domain extension.

How can domain parking help here?

A parked domain is when you purchase a domain name but don’t associate it with any web services like email or web hosting. Instead, the domain has been kept or “parked” for later use. There are several reasons why you may want to park a domain.

  • You haven’t created your website yet: For a website to be connected to the world wide web, it needs to be hosted in a service like Bluehost or HostGator. If you are just starting out, then you may not have had the time to sign up for these services.
  • Reserving domains for later use: As we have said before, getting a domain name is difficult. So, if you do luck upon the perfect domain name, you may want to lock it up and work on it in the future.
  • Generating passive income: You can be savvy with your parked domain and earn some passive income. If you have invested in a good-quality domain, you can simply pepper in some ads to earn ad revenue whenever someone visits your website and clicks on one.
  • Companies reserving multiple web addresses: Many companies tend to register multiple domain names. This is done because of two main reasons. Firstly, it will allow users to communicate with them in multiple ways. Secondly, it will lessen the chances of combosquatting and typosquatting attacks.
  • Waiting for your website to expire: If you already own a lot of websites, you simply wait on the ones you don’t need until they expire.

The dangers of domain parking

While parked domains by themselves are not really dangerous, they could be used in ways that can greatly damage your business. So, let’s do a quick run-through of some of these possible complications.

#1 Cybersquatting Issues

Cybersquatting attacks are one of the more common ways that an attacker can hurt your brand. Typosquatting and combosquatting are some of the most popular forms of cybersquatting. To understand how this works, let’s take an example.

Suppose your website is called example.com.

If an attacker tries to steal your traffic with a domain called exampIe.com (replacing the small “l” with a capital “L”) then that’s a typosquatting attack. Since it capitalizes on typos and spelling mistakes.

  • If an attacker tries to steal your traffic with a domain called “best-example.com” then that’s a combosquatting attack. It simply adds on your domain name with a word that makes sense.
  • Not only does this steal your traffic, but it also does irreparable damage to your brand. The users landing up in the cybersquatting domains may either be subjected to a phishing campaign or worse, a malware attack.

Speaking of which…

#2 Malware from zero-click traffic

This is one of the biggest problems with malicious domain parking.

Zero-click traffic refers to people who type in the wrong domain name and get redirected to a malicious landing page. This traffic could be heavily misused by either the owner of the parked domain or an attacker who buys it from the said owner.

Now let’s consider this situation.

You own “example.com” but some users accidentally type in “exampl.com.” Following that, they go to a website that is owned by a domain parker. An attacker X pays the domain parker some money to redirect the zero-click traffic towards X’s website. The users then get redirected to X’s website where they get infected with malware.

Does this sound farfetched to you? Well, consider this for a second.

A group of researchers (mainly from Indiana University) presented a report called the “Dark Side of Domain Parking.” Via various methods, they made 24 million visits to over 100,000 parked domain names. Among other things, the report discovered that at least 3.7% of zero-click traffic buyers spread malware.

Malware-infection via domain parking is such a huge issue that Commtouch’s 2012 Internet Threats report specifically reported that parked domains are among the top categories of websites to serve malware. The report concluded that “the hosting of malware may well be the intention of the owners of the parked domains.”

Prevent domain parking dangers with Netenrich

So, let’s briefly review the situation.

Domains that sound similar to yours have been locked away by certain people. Since you have no clue how many of these domains have been locked away, you are completely blind and unaware as to where you may get attacked.

To make sure that this doesn’t happen, our proprietary Attack Surface Intelligence (ASI) will run different spelling variations of the client’s domain name. We will then run through DNS records to check which of those are actually active.

When that’s done, we will check the active domains with the SNI (Server Name Indication) to see if they have any live certificates. If we do get a positive hit, then that’s a big red flag. What this essentially means is that someone has parked a cybersquatting domain with a live certificate. You will be notified about this issue immediately via our dashboard and receive remediation steps from our expert analysts, as well.

Rajarshi Mitra

About the Author

Rajarshi Mitra

Rajarshi is a creative and accomplished writer who made his mark in the blockchain space before stepping into cybersecurity. When he is not working, he is busy chilling with his wife and cat.

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