The International Chamber of Commerce's cybercrime unit has warned Internet businesses to check that their sites are not being exploited by the growing number of so-called page-jackers, who redirect their Web users to other sites.
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By copying pages of legitimate sites to their own and then registering identical keywords with search engines, page-jackers fool Internet users into thinking they are reading a legitimate webpage. Actually, it is a mirror tied to a completely different site, often containing sexually explicit material.
Apart from the loss of reputation that can be caused by these problems, page-jackers earn money by charging extra for advertising on their own sites, because their subterfuge ensures additional swathes of visitors.
Sometimes these cyber conmen are paid fees for attracting illicit traffic to sites owned by third parties.
"Companies need to keep a constant lookout for page-jackers," said Jon Merrett, assistant director of the cybercrime unit. "Targeted sites can lose thousandsof dollars of online customa day."
Last year the Federal Trade Commission in the US took action against a ring of page-jackers found to have copied 25 million pages from legitimate sites.
Merrett said, "Businesses finding any imitations of their Web sites should report them immediately to the Cybercrime Unit."