New Zealand shows how to guard against domain name scoundrels

The latest ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) meeting, which was held in Morocco last week, heard about the dangers associated with the growing secondary market in domain name resale. It heard about two cases where a Cub Scout site and one for a women's refuge were, legitimately, acquired by pornographic website operators.

Such problems can arise when domain name owners don't keep their ownership up to date, allowing it lapse, albeit unwittingly sometimes.

A meeting of ICANN's security and stability advisory committee (SSAC) was told about the above cases. There would be clear "reputational damage" in such an acquisition, says committee staffer Dave Piscitello. But it is unclear what can be done. However, New Zealand's Domain Name Commissioner, Debbie Monahan, pointed to two measures that her office has put in place to assist in tackling this problem.

The New Zealand registry has a 90-day "pending release" period after a name has lapsed.

"In those 90 days, it's not pushed to the zone [made available]," Monahan told the meeting. "And the registrant, and only the registrant, can reinstate it at any stage in those 90 days."

This goes some way to allowing the recapture of a name that has unintentionally lapsed, she says. But, clearly, if the 90 days have elapsed then another party will be allowed to acquire the name. Even at this point, in New Zealand, a dispute resolution procedure could be brought into play should the former owner's reputation be at risk.

While domain name registration policy remains strictly "first-come first-served" in New Zealand, anyone who thinks they have a legitimate claim to a domain name can dispute a registration. If the dispute cannot be resolved by informal mediation it then goes to formal hearing. This is heard by an expert, whose decision is binding.

"We have taken our definition of rights to be broader than trademarks," Monahan told the meeting.

A lot of the country code, top level domain (ccTLD) operators with similar "open registration" processes have similar issues and have dealt with them similarly, says Monahan.

"But we try, through automatic renewal, rather than cancellation on the date, and the 90-day pending-release period to minimise [unexpected transfers of names] as much as possible."

There is a different problem with domain owners who run domain-nameservers for customers outside their own domain - many ISPs offer such a service.

If such an organisation, entrusted with name resolution rights for innocent parties' domains, went out of business, or mistakenly let its own domain name lapse, and its name was then snapped up by a malicious operator, there could dangers for downstream parties.

Attempts to access their sites could be re-routed to unsavoury sites or used for phishing attacks, says Piscitello. There is no foolproof solution, but there are ways to mitigate against this risk, he says.

"First ... if you are going to use a name service [from outside your network] you need someone in your organisation who is responsible for coordinating the name service with the operator of the [external] name server.

"The second [precaution] is that you ought to make certain that your organisation has accurate contact information, especially technical contact information, for any operator you have delegated your name service to."

And, says Piscitello, monitor the domain name service.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Bell

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?