Over the years typo domains have proved lucrative for domainers looking to cash in on misguided traffic. Typosquatting is generally a risk free monetization method, and viewed largely as a web hazard of sorts that online businesses must live with. Inevitably there is plenty of naturally mistyped traffic on the web, so as long as the traffic is coming to a domain rather than being redirected it is difficult to argue a case for deception. Moreover, the sheer volume of similar domain names registered each year creates a natural landscape for human error when searching for websites.
However, for one cyber security expert and mobile app developer named Arthur Wesley Kenzie, typosquatting has attracted a $1.1m lawsuit from a New York City law firm named Gioconda Law Group.
Kenzie is accused of registering the name GiocondoLaw.com to capture traffic intended on landing at GiocondaLaw.com. The firm also claims that Kenzie created email accounts to capture emails addressed to lawyers and staff, with the intention of opening up security flaws and extorting the company via his online security company Securika.
Evidence of email harvesting is yet to come to light, and Kenzie says on his website, “Clearly I did create an exploit for this vulnerability, but that in itself does not cause me to be some malevolent black hat.”
Earlier this year Kenzie was accused of smilar practice involving defence contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. Gioconda also claims Kenzie is similarly “harvesting” e-mails intended for recipients at other major corporations, including McDonald’s, MasterCard, NewsCorp, and McAfee.
Ironically, the Gioconda Law Group specialize in anti-counterfeiting and brand protection, so I’m guessing they won’t need to hire in lawyers to execute this suit. Lawyer Joseph Gioconda remarked, “It was pretty brazen to target an intellectual property law firm in New York.” The company has also filed a complaint with the RCMP.
Typosquatting is one thing, harvesting emails and extortion another entirely. I hope for Kenzie’s sake, and the sake of the domaining community, that the suit is unfounded and subsequently dropped.