Manifesto Multilinko
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Saturday, November 10, 2007
the many URLs problem - phishing or not

In phishing, crooks create likely-looking but entirely fake websites, and then get you to enter all your info. Typically they may e.g. steal a bank's HTML and use it to make a page that sends passwords to them, taking advantage of the fact that unless you are extraordinarily attentive and reasonably tech-savvy and security-conscious, you are unlikely to be able to distinguish a real webpage from an essentially identical real-looking page.

If you are tech savvy, mostly you just check the URL and the page source to make sure it doesn't have in it somewhere.

Problem being, if you don't know the true legitimate URL and page contents, it's hard to know real from fake. I have had this problem several times with European hotels, which seem to create multiple and slightly different websites at different URLs.

One would hope Google would magically sort this out, but instead the results cluster at the top of the page. Which is the One True Site? I dunno. Of course you can protect yourself by booking through a travel site or agent you trust, but it's still very bad web citizenship. Presumably it's good for their web traffic though, although I'd argue having a single top result is better than having three similar results that are top ranked.

Some examples:

Hotel Brunelleschi in Florence
Is the real site or or are they equally valid?

Hotel Abbatial St. Germain in Paris
Both of these proclaim they are the OFFICIAL SITE:

This is going to get even worse, perhaps catastrophically so, when they start allowing accented and non-Roman character sets in domain names.

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