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Verizon subpoenas DirectNIC whistleblower

Kevin Murphy, January 21, 2011, Domain Registrars

Verizon has subpoenaed a former DirectNIC employee as part of its ongoing cybersquatting lawsuit against the domain name registrar.

Mark Deshong filed a “whistleblower” suit against his former employer – Keypath LLC, which he said shares ownership with DirectNIC – last August, but it was quickly settled out of court.

He alleged Keypath was engaged in a fraudulent domain arbitrage scheme using Yahoo Search Marketing and credit cards applied for in the name of bogus companies.

Keypath’s lawyers (who denied the links to DirectNIC) in turn accused Deshong of trying to extort the company for a larger severance package. The case was settled in October.

Now, in a Florida court filing (pdf), Verizon said it has subpoenaed Deshong for information related to its own case, which is currently tied up in pretrial discovery arguments.

He was scheduled to provide a deposition on Tuesday.

Verizon claims DirectNIC engaged in cybersquatting via shell companies such as Kenyatech/Kentech and Belize Domain WHOIS Service.

While there’s circumstantial evidence connecting the companies, CEO Sigmund Solares signed a sworn affidavit in a previous case denying Kenyatech and DirectNIC were affiliated.

Verizon’s interest in Deshong appears to be limited to information about DirectNIC’s ownership structure and its affiliations, rather than his allegations about domain arbitrage practices.

Surge in new domain registrars

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2011, Domain Registrars

ICANN is seeing a spike in newly accredited domain name registrars.

Since the start of the year, the organization has approved 16 new companies, compared to only about 40 in the whole of 2010.

About half a dozen of the new registrars appear to belong to domain investor Andrew Reberry of TurnCommerce, which owns domains such as Glossary.com, Bulldozers.com and Fluff.com.

Many of the others were accredited yesterday and have very generic registrar names, such as Host Name Services Inc, International Registration Services Inc and Online Name Services Inc.

There are no web sites associated with this latest batch yet, but I’d be surprised if many turn out to have sought accreditation with customer-facing domain services in mind.

This is pure speculation, but I wonder if any of this may be related to ICANN’s recent decision to loosen the restrictions on cross-ownership between registrars and registries.

If and when ICANN opens up its new top-level domains program to applications, which could happen as soon as August, potential registries will also be allowed to own registrars.

Could the market for flipping accredited companies return? It’s happened before, but it may not be the most efficient or economical way of achieving accreditation nowadays.

The uptick in newly approved registrars may of course just be an anomaly.

Network Solutions will sell .xxx domains

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Registrars

Network Solutions has become the first big-name registrar to show that it will support the proposed .xxx top-level domain.

This page has recently appeared on the NSI site, accessible from the company’s home page through the link “.xxx Coming Soon”.

NSI appears confident that ICANN will approve the TLD soon:

.XXX will be launching shortly and Network Solutions is working with ICM Registry to provide informational services for our customers that wish to take advantage of the launch and register domain names.

The TLD is currently being tied up by ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, but many believe it’s likely to be a shoo-in at the San Francisco meeting in March or sooner.

eNom named “worst” for badware

Kevin Murphy, January 12, 2011, Domain Registrars

Demand Media-owned eNom has been fingered as the worst company when it comes to hosting “badware”, according to the latest quarterly report from HostExploit.

The report puts eNom at number three in its overall league table of hosts involved (albeit generally unwittingly) in supporting malicious activity online, up from seven in the third quarter.

HostExploit conducts meta-research, looking at a number of factors (such as phishing and spam) normalizing and weighting data provided by a wide variety of sources.

eNom’s position on the list is based almost entirely on its ranking under the “badware” metric, which uses data supplied by StopBadware.org members Google, Sunbelt Software and Team Cymru.

Broken down by category, eNom scored 944 out of 1,000 in the fourth quarter, using HostExploit’s scoring system for badware. The network ranked second scored only 594.

What is badware? The report says:

Badware fundamentally disregards how users might choose to employ their own computer. Examples of such software include spyware, malware, rogues, and deceptive adware. It commonly appears in the form of free screensavers that surreptitiously generate advertisements, malicious web browser toolbars that take browsers to unexpected web pages and keylogger programs that transmit personal data to malicious third parties.

Other major domain name companies also rank in the top 50 worst hosts; 1&1, Oversee.net and Go Daddy occupy positions #35, #36 and #37. Google is at #28.

The HostExploit report appears to have been funded by the Nominet Trust.

Go Daddy files UDRP on “Mad Dog” host

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has filed a UDRP complaint against a web hosting company that uses a similar brand to sell domain names, maddogwebhosting.com.

The domain appears to have been used by a small-time hosting reseller for about two years. Its mailing address is a flat in south London.

But Go Daddy subsidiary Mad Dog Domains, which also sells hosting, has been around for longer and appears to have a trademark on its brand.

It’s not really an open-and-shut case by UDRP standards, given that Mad Dog Web Hosting appears to be a legitimate site, but I suspect Go Daddy has a reasonably good chance of prevailing.

We’ll have to wait for the ruling to be made and published by WIPO to find out the full details.