Warning: Imposter Websites with Similar URLs

May 8, 2019
URL mistake

Google will be adding a new feature to the Chrome browser that will alert users when they’re about to visit a possible imposter site. An imposter website is a site that uses a URL which looks very similar to the URL of a well-known, trusted, or popular website. These can appear in the form of slightly mistyped URLs, replacing letters with lookalike numbers, or any other means of confusing the user away from the site they intended to go to.

Scammers and hackers will register these URLs in an attempt to get ahold of a user’s personal information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, addresses and contacts, or any other form of sensitive information. Their goal is usually to make the site seem as similar as possible to the original URL so that nothing seems amiss to the website user. It can be hard to spot imposter websites while browsing the site, which is why it’s imperative to have the correct tools at your disposal.

That’s why Google has come to save the day again. They will be implementing a new feature in Chrome that tells you when you may be entering an imposter site. Engineers at Google are testing this feature, known as “Navigation suggestion for lookalike URLs.” It has been in the works for quite some time as a response to scammers “typosquatting” lookalike URLs. Many phishing scams are hosted in this way, so Google is on the lookout in order to protect its user base.

Although the feature is still being tested, users can enable it right now to protect them in their daily web browsing endeavors. All you need to do is copy and paste this URL into the Chrome address bar:

From there, users can enable “Navigation suggestions for lookalike URLs” right at the top of the page. Once it’s enabled, a dropdown panel will be shown under the address bar when you try to enter a website Google deems unsafe due to close proximity in URLs. The dropdown panel will ask if this was really the site you intended to enter, and will offer a suggestion for the site with the “correct” URL. Google engineers are still working on the finer details of the algorithm that supports this feature, which is why it isn’t enabled by default.

While it isn’t known when the feature will officially roll out, it’s a useful tool for those that use the internet a good portion of their day. It should be close to release, as an engineer gave a presentation on it in January, and Chrome users are able to use this soft-release version to help you spot imposter websites right now. This can also be useful information for any webmasters that host a site URL that is similar to a more popular site, as you may want to consider your options moving forward.

If you have questions or are in need if a website update, let us know!

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