Online Brand Abuse Escalates in 2008

Online brands can fall prey to abuse in the form of cybersquatting (define), phishing (define), and other forms of offenses that can be harmful to brands. A report, “Brandjacking Index: 2008 — The Year in Review,” released today by MarkMonitor, finds brand abuse grew across several verticals.

Cybersquatting, the practice of acquiring a Web address or domain name that infringes on the trademark of another business, rose 18 percent in 2008 to a total 440,584 instances identified in Q4, though no specific examples were disclosed. In 2007 cybersquatting rose 33 percent, including more than 380,000 exploits observed by MarkMonitor during the final three months of that year. “The reason cybersquatting is the vector of choice is that it helps you optimize for search engine optimization,” said Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer at MarkMonitor.

Of the abusive sites identified in 2008, over 80 percent were first detected during early 2007. The remainder of sites was established since then.

While cybersquatting remained the top abuse, other methods were popular, too. False association, such as a case of typosquatting where a brandjacker uses a misspelling of a brand name as a URL or a similar name to a brand, occurred 86,837 times, and there were 33,614 instances of pay-per-click abuse.

Abuses continued across industry verticals such as apparel, automotive, high tech, and media. Each vertical saw a year-over-year increase except for consumer package goods and financial.