Typos Could Lead to Security Breaches and Cybertheft
Another reason to read, reread and proofread before you hit “send” while emailing: Bad spelling and even just leaving out a single period can mean your messages could end up in the clutches of cyber thieves. The BBC cites a new study by Peter Kim and Garret Gee of the Godai Group which found that about 30 percent of 500 top US companies are “vulnerable” to a security breach because of the way they’ve set up their email systems:
While most have a single domain for their website, many use sub-domains for individual business units, regional offices or foreign subsidiaries.
Dots or full stops are used to separate the words in that sub domain.
For example a large American financial group may take bank.com as its corporate home but internally use us.bank.com for staff email.
Usually, if an address is typed with one of the dots missing, ie usbank.com, then the message is returned to its sender.
But by setting up similar doppelgänger domains, the researchers were able to receive messages that would otherwise be bounced back.
Using these “doppelgänger domains,” cyber thieves can steal “trade secrets, user names and passwords, and other employee information,” the authors of the study write.
Kim and Gee actually created web domains with commonly mistyped names and found themselves receiving emails that would not otherwise have come to them. According to the BBC, “over six months they grabbed 20GB of data made up of 120,000 wrongly sent messages,” with some of those emails containing valuable information in the form of user names, passwords and “details of corporate networks.”
Furthermore, the researchers did follow-up work and found that many addresses which closely resembled corporate domains were owned by individuals in China, or could be traced to websites associated with malware or phishing.
I’m not myself innocent of typos. Kim’s and Gee’s study is a striking reminder that every keystroke counts — and of why we all need to proofread, proofread, put our writing aside for a bit and then proofread again. Someone out there is waiting for us (for you) to make a typing error that could be far more fatal than you think.
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