Posts Tagged: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers


11
Jun 18

Bad .Men at .Work. Please Don’t .Click

Web site names ending in new top-level domains (TLDs) like .men, .work and .click are some of the riskiest and spammy-est on the Internet, according to experts who track such concentrations of badness online. Not that there still aren’t a whole mess of nasty .com, .net and .biz domains out there, but relative to their size (i.e. overall number of domains) these newer TLDs are far dicier to visit than most online destinations.

There are many sources for measuring domain reputation online, but one of the newest is The 10 Most Abused Top Level Domains list, run by Spamhaus.org. Currently at the #1 spot on the list (the worst) is .men: Spamhaus says of the 65,570 domains it has seen registered in the .men TLD, more than half (55 percent) were “bad.”

According to Spamhaus, a TLD may be “bad” because it is tied to spam or malware dissemination (or both). More specifically, the “badness” of a given TLD may be assigned in two ways:

“The ratio of bad to good domains may be higher than average, indicating that the registry could do a better job of enforcing policies and shunning abusers. Or, some TLDs with a high fraction of bad domains may be quite small, and their total number of bad domains could be relatively limited with respect to other, bigger TLDs. Their total “badness” to the Internet is limited by their small total size.”

More than 1,500 TLDs exist today, but hundreds of them were introduced in just the past few years. The nonprofit organization that runs the domain name space — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — enabled the new TLDs in response to requests from advertisers and domain speculators — even though security experts warned that an onslaught of new, far cheaper TLDs would be a boon mainly to spammers and scammers.

And what a boon it has been. The newer TLDs are popular among spammers and scammers alike because domains in many of these TLDs can be had for pennies apiece. But not all of the TLDs on Spamhaus’ list are prized for being cheaper than generic TLDs (like .com, .net, etc.). The cheapest domains at half of Spamhaus’ top ten “baddest” TLDs go for prices between $6 and $14.50 per domain.

Still, domains in the remaining five Top Bad TLDs can be had for between 48 cents and a dollar each.

Security firm Symantec in March 2018 published its own Top 20 list of Shady TLDs:

Symantec’s “Top 20 Shady TLDs,” published in March 2018.

Spamhaus says TLD registries that allow registrars to sell high volumes of domains to professional spammers and malware operators in essence aid and abet the plague of abuse on the Internet.

“Some registrars and resellers knowingly sell high volumes of domains to these actors for profit, and many registries do not do enough to stop or limit this endless supply of domains,” Spamhaus’ World’s Most Abused TLDs page explains.

Namecheap, a Phoenix, Ariz. based domain name registrar that in Oct. 2017 was the fourth-largest registrar, currently offers by a wide margin the lowest registration prices for three out of 10 of Spamhaus’ baddest TLDs, selling most for less than 50 cents each.

Namecheap also is by far the cheapest registrar for 11 of Symantec’s Top 20 Shady New TLDs: Namecheap is easily the least expensive registrar to secure a domain in 11 of the Top 20, including .date, .trade, .review, .party, .loan, .kim, .bid, .win, .racing, .download and .stream. Continue reading →


25
Nov 13

Spam-Friendly Registrar ‘Dynamic Dolphin’ Shuttered

The organization that oversees the Internet domain name registration industry last week revoked the charter of Dynamic Dolphin, a registrar that has long been closely associated with spam and cybercrime.

Scott Richter. Image: 4law.co.il

Scott Richter. Image: 4law.co.il

The move came almost five years after this reporter asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to investigate whether the man at the helm of this registrar was none other than Scottie Richter, an avowed spammer who has settled multi-million-dollar spam lawsuits with Facebook, Microsoft and MySpace over the past decade.

According to the contracts that ICANN requires all registrars to sign, registrars may not have anyone as an officer of the company who has been convicted of a criminal offense involving financial activities. While Richter’s spam offenses all involve civil matters, this reporter discovered several years ago that Richter had actually pleaded guilty in 2003 to a felony grand larceny charge.

Richter’s felony rap was detailed in a January 2004 story in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News; a cached copy of that story is here. It explains that Denver police were investigating a suspected fencing operation involving the purchase and sale of stolen goods by Richter and his associates. Richter, then 32, was busted for conspiring to deal in stolen goods, including a Bobcat, a generator, laptop computers, cigarettes and tools. He later pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny, and was ordered to pay nearly $38,000 in restitution to cover costs linked to the case.

After reading this story, I registered with the Colorado state courts Website and purchased a copy of the court record detailing Richter’s conviction — available at this link (PDF) — and shared it with ICANN. I also filed an official request with ICANN (PDF) to determine whether Richter was in fact listed as a principal in Dynamic Dolphin. ICANN responded in 2008 that it wasn’t clear whether he was in fact listed as an officer of the company.

But in a ruling issued last week, ICANN said that analysis changed after it had an opportunity to review information regarding Dynamic Dolphin’s voting shares.

“Prior to this review, ICANN had no knowledge that Scott Richter was the 100% beneficial owner of Dynamic Dolphin,” ICANN wrote. “In light of this review, ICANN initiates a review of the application for accreditation from 2011. Based on Section II. B. of the Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy, Dynamic Dolphin did not disclose in its application for accreditation that Scott Richter was the 100% beneficial owner of Dynamic Dolphin or that Scott Richter was convicted in 2003 for a felony relating to financial activities.”

ICANN has ordered that Dynamic Dolphin be stripped of its accreditation as a registrar, and that all domains registered with Dynamic Dolphin be transferred to another registrar within 28 days. Neither Richter nor a representative for Dynamic Dolphin could be immediately reached for comment.

ICANN’s action is long overdue. Writing for The Washington Post in May 2008, this author called attention to statistics gathered by anti-spam outfit Knujon (“NOJUNK” spelled backwards), which found that more than three quarters of all Web sites advertised through spam at the time were clustered at just 10 domain name registrars. Near the top of that list was Dynamic Dolphin, a registrar owned by an entity called CPA Empire, which in turn is owned by Media Breakaway LLC — Richter’s company. Another story published around that same time by The Washington Post showed that Media Breakaway was behind the wholesale hijacking of some 65,586 Internet addresses from a San Francisco, Calif. organization that was among the early pioneers of the Internet.

Continue reading →


16
Sep 13

WHOIS Privacy Plan Draws Fire

Internet regulators are pushing a controversial plan to restrict public access to WHOIS Web site registration records. Proponents of the proposal say it would improve the accuracy of WHOIS data and better protect the privacy of people who register domain names. Critics argue that such a shift would be unworkable and make it more difficult to combat phishers, spammers and scammers.

ardsA working group within The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that oversees the Internet’s domain name system, has proposed scrapping the current WHOIS system — which is inconsistently managed by hundreds of domain registrars and allows anyone to query Web site registration records. To replace the current system, the group proposes creating a more centralized WHOIS lookup system that is closed by default.

According to an interim report (PDF) by the ICANN working group, the WHOIS data would be accessible only to “authenticated requestors that are held accountable for appropriate use” of the information.

“After working through a broad array of use cases, and the myriad of issues they raised, [ICANN’s working group] concluded that today’s WHOIS model—giving every user the same anonymous public access to (too often inaccurate) registration data—should be abandoned,” ICANN’s “expert working group” wrote. The group said it “recognizes the need for accuracy, along with the need to protect the privacy of those registrants who may require heightened protections of their personal information.”

The working group’s current plan envisions creating what it calls an “aggregated registration directory service” (ARDS) to serve as a clearinghouse that contains a non-authoritative copy of all of the collected data elements. The registrars and registries that operate the hundreds of different generic top-level domains (gTLDs, like dot-biz, dot-name, e.g.) would be responsible for maintaining the authoritative sources of WHOIS data for domains in their gTLDs. Those who wish to query WHOIS domain registration data from the system would have to apply for access credentials to the ARDS, which would be responsible for handling data accuracy complaints, auditing access to the system to minimize abuse, and managing the licensing arrangement for access to the WHOIS data.

The plan acknowledges that creating a “one-stop shop” for registration data also might well paint a giant target on the group for hackers, but it holds that such a system would nevertheless allow for greater accountability for validating registration data.

Unsurprisingly, the interim proposal has met with a swell of opposition from some security and technology experts who worry about the plan’s potential for harm to consumers and cybercrime investigators.

“Internet users (individuals, businesses, law enforcement, governments, journalists and others) should not be subject to barriers – including prior authorization, disclosure obligations, payment of fees, etc. – in order to gain access to information about who operates a website, with the exception of legitimate privacy protection services,” reads a letter (PDF) jointly submitted to ICANN last month by G2 Web Services, OpSec Security, LegitScript and DomainTools.

“Internet users have the right to know who is operating a website they are visiting (or, the fact that it is registered anonymously),” the letter continues. “Today, individuals review full WHOIS records and, based on any one of the fields, identify and report fraud and other abusive behaviors; journalists and academics use WHOIS data to conduct research and expose miscreant behavior; and parents use WHOIS data to better understand who they (or their children) are dealing with online. These and other uses improve the security and stability of the Internet and should be encouraged not burdened by barriers of a closed by default system.”

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