Nearly 2,000 examples of 'typosquatting', affecting the websites of major high-street brands, have been detected.

Websense Security Labs has uncovered increased evidence of typosquatting, where cyber criminals create mirrors of popular shopping sites such as Argos, John Lewis and Debenhams, in order to steal customer data. Online shoppers fall victim to the scam by mistyping web addresses and ending up with an infected computer.

Websense discovered nearly 2,000 typosquatted domains, including ‘debenahams', ‘johlewis' and ‘argoss', where the page looks like a retailer's site, but where the user is led to a phishing or other potentially harmful site that injects malware or infects their system with spyware.

It also claimed that cyber criminals are registering variants of legitimate sites with false suffixes such as '.org' or '.net'; in October, Websense noticed that cyber criminals were registering huge numbers of fake website domains in preparation for the Christmas shopping spree.

Elad Sharf at Websense Security Labs said: “Cyber criminals are smart at enticing Christmas shoppers to unwanted sites. While this looks like a consumer problem, typosquatting also puts companies' confidential data at risk as many employees shop from work computers at lunchtime.

“Careful typing helps, but will never be enough, so it's highly recommended that companies install real-time email and web security, along with solutions that prevent theft and loss of confidential information, protection that traditional antivirus and firewall products don't provide.”