Towards the Development of Indicators of Fake Websites for Digital Investigation


  • Aysha Alkuwaiti Zayed University
  • Mera Alremeithi
  • Haya Alobeidli
  • Richard Ikuesan



Fake website, Hoax, Cybersquatting, Sweepstakes, Fake website indicators


A fake website is considered a website that is intended to cause harm and manipulate users, especially novice users without some knowledge of indicators of fakeness. Understanding the indicators of fake websites is thus considered an important concept to avoid being a victim of malicious attacks in online engagements. In some cases, such knowledge is required to reduce the potential attack surface of cyber criminals. However, the increasing rate of website diversity and complexities makes it difficult for an individual to distinguish between a fake and a real website while compounding the investigation process of a website. Also, the growing rate of website imitation technology and website domain closure presents a veritable platform for the development of fake websites. As a step towards determining the genuineness of a website, this study developed a forensic framework based on an exploratory analysis of different genres of fake websites. To achieve this, forensic methodologies and processes were applied to methodically selected samples of known fake websites based on three fakeness categories: Hoaxes, Cybersquatting, and Sweepstakes. The result revealed the existence of salient markers which can be used as indicators of fakeness and can be applied across a wide genre of websites.  Furthermore, the resultant observation was used to develop a digital forensic framework for website fakeness evaluation. The developed framework was benchmarked to the ISO 27043/2015 and the NIST SP800-86 standard for completeness and relevance to forensic investigation processes. By leveraging the proposed digital forensic framework, an investigation can develop a reliable pointer to evaluate the genuineness of any website, which can significantly reduce the investigation time. For a non-forensic individual, the developed framework can be leveraged to identify, at first glance, the degree of fakeness of a website. Such a mechanism can therefore provide a useful tool to reduce the potential susceptibility of users thereby creating user awareness.