By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
An Internet arbitrator has awarded Google Inc. the rights to several
Web site addresses that relied on typographical errors to exploit the
online search engine's popularity so computer viruses and other
malicious software could be unleashed on unsuspecting visitors.
The National Arbitration Forum, a legal alternate to litigating in
court, sided with a Google complaint alleging that Sergey Gridasov of
St. Petersburg, Russia, had engaged in "typosquatting" by operating
Web sites named googkle.com, ghoogle.com and gooigle.com.
After former Stanford University graduate students incorporated the
search engine in September 1998, Google registered its domain name a
year later. Gridasov registered his Web sites in December 2000 and
January 2001, according to Google's complaint.
In a decision made earlier this week, arbitrator Paul A. Dorf,
endorsed Google's contention that the misspelled addresses were part
of a sinister plot to infect computers with programs - known as
"malware" - that can lead to recurring system crashes, wipe out
valuable data or provide a window into highly sensitive information.
Gridasov didn't respond to Google's complaint, filed May 11, meaning
the arbitrator could accept all reasonable allegations as true.
The Associated Press sent an e-mail Friday to the address that
Gridasov listed when he registered his Web sites. The response, which
wasn't signed by Gridasov, acknowledged the misspelled names were
adopted to attract more visitors, but said there hadn't been any
complaints until the sites began posting code from another company,
which assured it wouldn't cause any trouble.
F-Secure, a Finnish company specializing in identifying malware,
identified googkle.com as a troublemaker in an advisory posted April
26 -- nearly three weeks before Mountain View-based Google filed its
Trying to piggyback on the popularity of a heavily trafficked Web site
isn't new. For instance, the address Whitehouse.com used to display
ads for pornography was a surprise for Web surfers looking for
Whitehouse.gov, the president's official online
channel. Whitehouse.com now operates as a private Web site that sells
access to public records.
Google's brand ranks among the most trusted on the Internet and its
Web site attracts more than 66 million unique monthly visitors, making
it an inviting target for scheming opportunists.
On The Net:
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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