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Mousetrapping: What is it & how to Safeguard Against it?

 

Mousetrapping works in the identical way that a traditional mousetrap does: you unknowingly walk into a trap designed to keep you trapped for as long as possible. Operators who utilize mousetraps actively market their products or services. They may even attempt to steal your personal details. So, how do you know when you've stepped into a trap? 

Mousetrapping is an unethical practice used by some website operators to keep you on their site for longer than necessary. It is a technique that traps you in an endless loop of pages and pop-ups, preventing you from leaving a website.

Some operators will even open the new page you've been redirected to in a new window. You can't access the taskbar, toolbar, or browser menu while in this window, making it difficult to close. These websites may even deactivate the web browser's back or exit buttons, trapping you on the page until you exit the browser. In such cases, the only actionable buttons that work are those in pop-ups that force you to perform whatever action the website owner dictates.

"Your phone is hacked. Download this Antivirus Software Now.
99% of android users have this app on their phone.
Your government is tracking your phone. Install this VPN."

When you visit a website with mousetraps, you will encounter a lot of messages like this: pop-ups requesting you to download an app, visit another site, or even enter your phone number. Clicking the exit button on these pop-ups usually results in more call-to-action messages. Executing these actions and downloading the files will almost certainly result in the installation of malware on your computer and the theft of sensitive information.

How to Recognize a Mousetrap

The first step in making a mousetrap is to closely mimic the URL of a legitimate popular website. It could be a celebrity's official website or your favorite newspaper. The malicious site could end up on a search engine with a simple misspelling and a line of code. Because the code and content closely resemble that of the authentic website, the link to the site ends up on search engines.

It is sometimes difficult to tell if a website is legitimate until you click on a link. Fortunately, there are methods for determining whether a website is genuine. The mousetraps are designed by the owners of these websites in order to capture as many clicks as possible from unwitting visitors. When you realize you've been duped, you immediately attempt to exit the site by clicking on a broken back button.

The logical next step would be to press the forward button or search the toolbar for an escape route. It is already too late at this point. It is nearly impossible to leave this way because the site owner has included lines of code that will open one ad banner after another for every click you make.

That isn't all. Because pop-ups appear quickly, you may need to open multiple windows in order to evade them. You must close each pop-up one by one, and the more clicks you have, the more benefit the site owner receives. The close button on pop-ups does not always work, resulting in more ads, banners, and redirects.

Mousetrapping isn't just for clicks. Some threat actors use these traps to keep their victims occupied. The pop-ups and windows are designed to keep you on the page while malware is downloaded onto your system.

How to Get Out of a Mousetrap

The obvious escape, like most traps, will most likely lead you deeper into the trap. The back button you rush to click will simply open an ad in another window or launch a barrage of banners, further frustrating you. Despite this, there are a few ways to get out of mousetraps.

1. Input Another URL Address
2. Disable JavaScript
3. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

It's difficult to spot a malicious website, especially if it's a carbon copy of a popular platform. When you realize you've been trapped and windows and pop-ups are appearing with every click, go to the URL bar and enter a new address. You should be able to close the opened windows using keyboard shortcuts.

However, prevention is always preferable to cure. Use web browsers that have add-ons and plug-ins that prevent redirects, advertisements, and unauthorized window openings. Another option is to disable JavaScript. Many site features, including pop-ups and banners, would be disabled.