Was Your Website Copied? How To Prevent Website Cloning

Summary: This 3-minute article explores how hackers can clone or “pagejack” your website. Then, learn how you can prevent website cloning. If you have further questions, contact GEEKAID Computer and Network Support at https://www.geek-aid.com/. They offer a wide array of home and business IT solutions for your computer systems.

On the dark side of the IT world, cybercriminals work day and night to find new ways to steal data. Hackers will target anything that they can use to their advantage and compromising the integrity and security of websites is on their short “hit list.” The most common method of attacking websites is called cloning, also known as pagejacking.

What is Pagejacking (Cloning)?

Pagejacking is the duplication of an existing website to create a new identical website, often for nefarious purposes. Every website has three components: design, content and programming code. When all three of a website’s components are copied, the resulting page will look identical to the original one.

Website cloning is not necessarily illegal. The legality rests on the purpose for which a website is copied. For example, it is perfectly legal for the owner of a website to replicate the site as a backup. Also, a software developer might copy a website as a template for building another site. Sometimes, a legitimate competitor of the target website’s brand will copy certain parts of a site to dilute the impact of the website owner’s brand.

However, cyberthieves can use cloned websites to reroute web traffic from the legitimate website. Once rerouted, the unsuspecting users can fall victim to cyberattacks such as phishing and other malicious threats. In addition, hackers often use an attack known as mousetrapping to stop website visitors from leaving their bogus sites.

What Is Mousetrapping?

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mousetrapping) defines mousetrapping as “a technique used by some websites (often tech support scam sites) to keep visitors from leaving their website, either by launching an endless series of pop-up ads, redirects or by re-launching their website in a window that cannot be easily closed; sometimes this window runs like a stand-alone application, and the taskbar and the browser's menu become inaccessible. Many such websites also employ browser hijackers to reset the user's default homepage.”

Hackers perform malicious website cloning as a first step in stealing traffic from the original site to perform additional attacks on the hijacked users. One of the worst versions of these website attacks created by cyberthieves automatically copies a website and continues to update the clone as changes are made to the legitimate site.

Once users visit the fake website, hackers find ways to trick them into divulging private information, buying counterfeit products and becoming infected with various forms of malware.

Over time, a cloned website can do severe damage to the owner of the original site. Here are some of the most dangerous potential risks of website cloning that you should consider:

The easiest way to confirm that your website has been cloned is by running a copyright protection program such as Copyscape. These programs automatically check the vast online copy universe for plagiarism and other copyright infringements. Routinely running anti-plagiarism software should become part of your IT maintenance and network cyber security.

Once you have confirmed that your website has been cloned, steps should be taken to:

Your website functions as your online brand ambassador. For many SMBs, a website clone can bring devastating consequences, even bankruptcy. Being vigilant and having robust protection against website cloning is well worth the investment of time and money.