- David Goldstein -
Nominet has taken action against fraudulent and malicious .uk domain name registrations related to the current COVID-19 pandemic as part of their ongoing work to reduce criminality.
.uk registry had identified close to 500 domain names that were either suspended or referred to the appropriate regulatory body for guidance as to their appropriateness. As part of their ongoing work to keep the .uk namespace safe, Nominet is always monitoring new domain name registrations alongside those already in existence for any evidence of fraudulent or malicious usage.
In recent weeks they have added new key words to search for, such as ‘coronavirus’ and ‘covid19’. Not surprisingly Nominet has witnessed a rapid upswing in domain name registrations containing these virus-related terms.
Many of these are being picked up by Nominet’s Domain Watch initiative, a blend of manual and automated checking processes that helps identify, at the point of registration, which new domains are likely to be used for phishing. Those that look suspicious – based on algorithm and then a manual check – are suspended until evidence of good intentions is given by the registrants.
As of late March Nominet had suspended over 180 domains due to this monitoring. A small proportion of the registrants responded satisfactorily and had their domain names were reactivated. Nominet believes it’s highly likely that those who did not respond were intending to use their domains to manipulate a public in need of information. Preventing these from entering the registry is a priority to ensure users of our national namespace are kept as safe as possible.
But that isn’t to say that all ‘coronavirus’ or ‘covid19’ domains are being registered for malicious purposes. Some of the legitimate reasons for these registrations include pharmaceutical trials, topical blogs or community groups offering support.
While Domain Watch catches domains at the point of registration, Nominet also works collaboratively with UK law enforcement to ensure they can monitor domains that have already been registered for any criminal activity. In this way, a list of over 300 domains was identified that are using the terms ‘covid-19’ or ‘coronavirus’ in their domain name, and Nominet shared these with appropriate regulatory authority - the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency - for guidance. It should be noted that some of these will be innocent, as ‘corona’ appears in other words such as coronation or Corona beer.