Dynamic Deception: How One Domain Masquerades as Countless Websites

Think of a chameleon, constantly changing its appearance to lure-in the unsuspecting victims.

Well, when I published an article yesterday, it was simply about fake GitHub clone login pages trying to intercept developer login credentials. I accidentally came across this site when trying to search for my GitHub project. At first, it looked exactly like a regular Google result page, except for one thing: the wrong icon; the Octocat favicon was missing. Instead, it’s an icon I haven’t seen. If it wasn’t for that minor detail, I would have completely ignored it and gone on my way.

Domain Masquerade: one domain, multiple fake websites.

Domain masking official Apple Website.
Domain masking official Apple Website.

Imagine a single website pretending to be Google, Netflix, Amazon, Wikipedia, etc. all at the same time. There are thousands of such links on Google’s SERP, and that too for a website that was registered three weeks ago. Now this isn’t a Google-only issue; search engines like Bing, DuckDuckGo, Startpage, etc. already index the home page, which itself is a page impersonating a website called Partoo.

One link lead to another, masking the entire web.

It was quite accidental when I decided to click a link outside of GitHub (the fake GitHub). I clicked on the WordPress link, and the WordPress.org home page opened, except the domain was still masked. I was even able to download the latest version of WordPress from that site.

The download file hashes from the real site and the fake site were the same. So they weren’t delivering fake software. Yet!

Video depicting how one domain, masking the entire web

Non-existent fake pages, just dynamic loading on the fly.

This is the scariest part: these fake pages and fake websites do not exist on the main site itself. It generates on-the-fly, making it harder to detect and block. Most URL-scanning tools gave the site a safe rating.

The SERP trap.

The site currently utilizes search engine results to direct traffic to their fake site. There are thousands of links directly indexed on Google. While the site may not be malicious today, that will not be the case tomorrow. An indexed website today could directly lead innocent end users to a phishing website tomorrow.

Google SERP showing 1000s of fake masked sites.
Google SERP showing 1000s of fake masked sites.

What’s terrifying is that all this could be easily replicated with a new domain.

What can you do?

Staying vigilant: Digital trust is eroding, and the gap between internet companies and commoners is increasing at a rapid pace. All you can do as an end user is stay vigilant. Always double-check the URLs, not just the layout or logo.

If you ever come across sites that are impersonating real websites, make sure to report them. Only collectively can we tackle scammers.

The mystery remains: Is this elaborate scheme a malicious scam or just a cruel prank on the internet? There doesn’t seem to be any direct financial harm at the moment, but that doesn’t give them the right to impersonate or even mask websites they don’t own or operate. The effort they put into this web of deception paints a darker picture. Impersonating valid websites isn’t mere mischief. Moreover, manipulating search results with a site could potentially steal sensitive information from unsuspecting individuals.

The line between a scam and mischief is very blurry in this instance, but one thing is for sure: it’s an exploit with the potential for real-world consequences.

And for that reason, I’ll call it what it is—a devious, terrifying scam—and encourage everyone to stay vigilant. If it is a scam, it could be easily replicated with a new domain, continuing the cycle of deception.

The chameleon can shed its skin and blend into the web once more.

Update: Namecheap has suspended the domain

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