Online Brand Protection: How to Avoid Rogue Websites and Consumer Data Loss


Share on LinkedIn

A company can spend many years developing its image only to have it devastated in mere moments by online fraud. In this era where data breaches, identity theft, and virtual crimes are rampant, your consumers rely on your brand to protect their sensitive information and go the extra mile to defend them from online crooks.

Setting up and using domains in bad faith is just one of the most common techniques employed by malicious individuals today. Sites that are used in selling counterfeit goods, cybersquatting, and typosquatting are included in this category. Collectively, these malicious tools are known as “rogue websites.”

What Are Rogue Websites?

Rogue websites are basically sites developed and utilized for criminal or malicious purposes. These can come in the form of:

Counterfeit-selling websites
The methods used in counterfeit-selling include imitation and bait-and-switch tactics. Imitation sites operate by deceiving consumers into thinking they arrived at a legitimate website or one that is an official associate of a certain brand when they actually are not. This is made possible by copying a legitimate site’s trademarked stuff, layout, product listings, and more. Whenever a visitor reaches the specially crafted landing page, they are presented fake copies of the target company’s products and services.

The bait-and-switch technique, meanwhile, works just like imitation in that the fraudulent sites are also used to sell products or provide services similar to those of the target company. However, this approach doesn’t necessarily require the perpetrators to fool potential customers that the website they’re in is real.

This refers to the practice of claiming domain names to take advantage of the trademarks that belong to someone else. Oftentimes, these websites are used in bad faith.

There are two primary methods that a cybersquatter uses to gain profit from this approach. The first is that they look for and sell domains to a legitimate trademark holder while the second involves driving traffic away from target buyers in case they decide not to purchase the domains they are selling.

Buying and maintaining domains is very easy to do nowadays. Since branding is crucial for most companies, cybersquatters know that they can make a lot of money simply by reselling domains.

One common technique used by cybersquatters is to monitor recently expired or abandoned domains and immediately claim them before a legitimate owner can do so. Smaller companies, especially those that aren’t tech-savvy, are prone to losing their domains through expiration.

This refers to the practice of registering domain names that closely resemble those of popular brands’. Many of these contain common spelling and typographical errors or typos, as the perpetrators hope to gain traffic meant for the typosquatted domains. Once visitors arrive, they can be presented with counterfeit goods, competing products, or even malware and scams.

Malicious individuals know that there is much to gain by operating rogue websites so these will continue to increase in volume in the years to come. This is one of the reasons why there is a dire need for reliable online brand protection nowadays.

What Is Online Brand Protection?

Online brand protection is the concept of going on the offensive when safeguarding against the loss of revenue, company instability, and loss of customer trust that eventually occur when criminal elements use your brand for their own personal gain.

Its practice is highly crucial for every organization that wishes to make sure its brand is not misrepresented or impersonated, which can lead to financial and other dilemmas. As digital fraud continuously evolves and becomes more complicated, a comprehensive online brand protection solution should be a cornerstone in securing a company’s operational viability and preventing loss of long-time customers.

Keeping your brand safe on the Web, however, doesn’t just mean using antivirus software and firewalls. It requires everyone in the company to be aware of cybersecurity threats and know what to do against digital fraud. This means being proactive in scanning public domains and servers to find evidence of trademark infringement.

How to Safeguard Against Rogue Websites

One of the best ways to protect your brand against rogue websites is the preemptive approach of registering variations of your domain name with several slight differences that include:

1. Typographical errors
2. Misspellings
3. Extension differences
4. Punctuation differences

Even the mere act of registering the most obvious variations of your domain name can make a huge dent on the profitability of rogue website operators. You only need to spend a few dollars each year, which is considerably less complicated than, for instance, waiting for a cybersquatter to secure a similar domain and profit off of your trademarks.

There are also domain name monitoring software available today that can aid in your online brand protection efforts.

What Can a Brand Monitor Do?

A brand monitoring platform or tool keeps track of content on the Web found in news articles, web pages, blogs, or social networks. It provides users with in-depth data analysis on the what, when, and how in relation to a certain brand. Some of the benefits you can expect from using such a program include:

– Letting you know how users are receiving your brand on various media and how it is currently being perceived
– Pinpointing negative brand sentiments that need to be addressed
– Keeping track of specific terms relevant to your brand to identify cases of trademark infringement
– Providing a complete overview of your brand perception, which can be used to support future marketing strategies

What Areas Can It Monitor?

A brand monitor application can let you track the following:

Brand keywords
One of the first things you need to do is to monitor your own brand and a great way of doing so is by tracking related keywords. The software lets you add terms to a list that it will then proactively track to find relevant newly registered and recently expired domains. When matches are found, which could translate to the registration of a potential typosquatting site, users are immediately notified.

Topics and trends
There are platforms that can let you see the bigger picture related to topics associated with your brand. These will give you insights on phrases that your intended audiences use when discussing topics in your industry, allowing you to discover trends you can ride on for your content and digital marketing campaigns.

Incoming links:
It’s easy for anyone to refer to another site without mentioning its owner. Failing to keep track of inbound links means that you’re missing out on a lot of references—both good and bad—that you may need to address. This is especially true if you want to reap SEO benefits.

Domain names:
You can also perform domain name monitoring on both ccTLDs and gTLDs so you can know when domains you’re interested in become available. This lets you keep track of domains that closely match your company name or brand so you can acquire them as soon as possible.

There are brand monitoring tools that let you track what your competitors are doing. These software applications allow you to understand how your rivals engage their customers and find out what works so that you can adapt to fit your own strategies.

A lot of things depend on the reputation of your company, especially amid today’s modern business setting. With advanced monitoring capabilities, you can enhance your online brand protection and keep your trademarks safe from all kinds of threats, particularly rogue websites.

Alexandre François
Alexandre Francois is Head of Content at WhoisXML API and interested in aspects related to cybersecurity, brand protection, and online reputation.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here