Nominet helped the UK’s Metropolitan Police seize 1,800 .uk domains during 2010, many of them just prior to Christmas, according to the Met.
The domains all allegedly hosted “bogus” sites that were “either fraudulent or advertising counterfeit goods which failed to materialise”, the Met said.
While a statement from the Police Central e-Crime Unit said it had worked with “registrars” to shut down the domains, it also credited Nominet a role:
The sites are run by organised criminal networks and thought to generate millions of pounds which can then be used to fund further illicit activity.
The preventative action was carried out in partnership with Nominet – the public body for UK domain name registrations – and involved a concentrated effort around the festive period; a time when we traditionally see an upsurge in this type of crime as fraudsters take advantage of the increased number of online consumers.
It’s not the first time the UK police, with Nominet’s aid, have swooped to shut down such domains.
Web hosting companies reportedly often ask for a court order before shutting down sites. When VeriSign helped US law enforcement seize 80+ domains in November, it did so subject to a court order.
It seems domains in the UK may not be subject to such judicial oversight.
Nominet chief executive Lesley Cowley, discussing the December 2009 seizures in a recent interview, would only tell me that the police had “instructed” Nominet to shut down the domains.
According to The Register’s coverage, Nominet used the lack of authentic Whois data as legal cover for those seizures.
But there is a new Nominet policy development process under way, initiated by the UK Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which seeks to amend the standard .uk registrant agreement to give a stronger contractual basis for seizing domains when they appear to break UK law.