Today, I wanted to visit Airbnb, but to my surprise, I was immediately transferred from www.airbnb.com to www.airbnb.com.mt. What is this? Has someone hacked the domain, or is this the new domain address for Airbnb? Are you worried? Time to find out what is going on!
A typical way of hacking websites is by taking control of the original domain and transferring people to a different domain (where you have all the control). The site looks the same, the content is the same, and as a result, the visitors notice no difference at all. This is all beautiful and nice until they add the credit card numbers and payment information. That is when hackers take advantage of the hack and get a hold of your money.
We can often see the same happen with emails supposedly arriving from Apple Store, Google, Hotmail, Netflix, Amazon, and similar services. They claim that something is wrong with your account and that you need to visit it again to make sure everything is correct. If you click the links, you will be taken to a shadow-website, looking exactly the same, but with some errors in the address. That is why it is always a good habit to check the addresses you visit for errors. And also, never trust emails about changes that need to be done to your account. A piece of good advice is also to copy the link in the email to see if it actually leads to the website in the discussion, or to somewhere else. But, be aware, often the changes to the address is very small… instead of booking.com, it might be b00king.com or instead of hotmail.com, it might be hotmall.com. As you can see, the differences are small, and it is very easy to not notice such differences. But, what is up with Airbnb? Is airbnb.com.ml the new official address, or has someone hacked the site?
Is airbnb.com.ml the new official Airbnb address, or is it a scam?
The funny thing is, I wouldn’t even have noticed the new address if it wasn’t for the fact that my password program didn’t come with a suggestion as I wanted to log in. How come? That is when I noticed that the address had changed.
Worth knowing about .ml domains
A .ml domain is a domain registered in Malta. By definition, this is not a domain hackers would use. They would then use some domain in a much less restricted country, and for sure not in an .EU nation.
There are several second-level domain names in Malta. For example, edu.ml means it is an educational institution, gov.mt means it is a governmental institution, org.mt means the domain belongs to a non-profit organization, while com.mt (as in airbnb.com.mt) belongs to a commercial entity.
I also checked the certificate of the domain, and it looks to be registered to Airbnb.
I have also sent an inquiry to Airbnb asking for information about this, and the following was the answer:
Hi there, that is an Airbnb domain. It will change depending on the country you are located in.Airbnb support
While writing the article, I have tried to access the domain once again, with no success. If I try to enter the address, I am sent back to www.airbnb.com, the standard domain. Maybe it was a very short and temporary error? I don’t know!
Have you got any thoughts on this matter? I would love to hear your insight and experience!