Threat Intelligence Blog

Posted October 7, 2013

Bitsquatting is a relatively new term derived from combining the phrases “bit flipping” and “cybersquatting,” and it’s a more common problem than you might expect. We discussed this topic in a recent webcast, and in this three-part blog series, we’ll take a take a look at what bitsquatting is, how often it happens, and what you can do about it.

What is bitsquatting?

Unlike “typopiracy,” or typosquatting, which relies on common typographical errors, bitsquatting uses character replacements based on characters that are one “bit” (i.e., a 0 or 1) apart when translated into the actual binary language used by computers.

For example, despite the fact that “r” and “2” are far apart on the keyboard, they are only one bit apart in binary, as illustrated here:

How to say Microsoft in Binary

Registering a domain name with this one-character difference would allow someone to drive traffic to that website if a computer were to make a typo based on a bit “flipping” during the DNS lookup.

Wait – machines can make typos?

Odd as it sounds, machines do sometimes make exactly this kind of mistake. While it is a statistical rarity (i.e., it may happen less than one in a million times), on the Internet, even a tiny fraction of a very big number can be enough to cause problems.

What can cause bit flipping?

  • Antiquated or aging hardware and software
  • Excessive heat or other extreme operating conditions outside system ranges
  • Electrical surges, interruptions and fluctuations
  • Defects in chips or other components

These and other factors can cause machines to simply make a mistake way down in the depths where the letters and words that machines “speak” are translated in and out of the actual 1’s and 0’s the machines actually use.

In upcoming blog posts, we’ll examine how common it is and how it can affect your brand.

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