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How NetSol opts you in to cybersquatted .xyz names

Clear-cut cases of cybersquatting seem to be among those .xyz domain names that Network Solutions has registered to its customers without their explicit request.

Some of the domains I’ve found registered in .xyz, via NetSol to the registrants of the matching .com or .net names, include my-twitter.xyz, facebook-liker.xyz and googledia.xyz.

Domains including other brands, such as Rolex, Disney, iPhone, Amazon and Pepsi can also be found registered to third parties, via NetSol, in .xyz’s zone today.

They’re all registered via NetSol’s Whois privacy service, which lists the registrant’s “real” name in the Whois record, but substitutes mailing address, email and phone number with NetSol-operated proxies.

I think the chance of these names being paid for by the registrant is slim. It seems probable that many (if not all) of the squatty-looking names were registered via NetSol’s promotional program for .xyz.

As previously reported, NetSol has been giving away domain names in .xyz to owners of the matching .com names. Tens of thousands of .xyz names seem to have been registered this way in the last week.

The “registrants” did not have to explicitly accept the offer. Instead, NetSol gave them the option to “opt-out” of having the name registered on their behalf and placed into their accounts.

The effect of this has been to propel .xyz into the leading spot in the new gTLD league table. It had 82,236 names in today’s zone file. a clear 15,000 names ahead of second-place .club.

But it’s not clear how much, if any, support NetSol has received from the registry, XYZ.com. CEO Daniel Negari told Rick Schwartz, in a coy interview last week:

The Registry Operator is unable to “give away” free domain names. I never even saw the email that the registrar sent to its customers until I discovered it on the blogs.

The opt-out giveaway has also prompted speculation about NetSol’s right to register domains without the explicit consent of the registrant, both under the law and under ICANN contract.

Under the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, in order to register a domain name, registrars “shall require” the registrant “to enter into an electronic or paper registration agreement”.

That agreement requires the registrant to agree to, among many other things, the transfer or suspension of their domains if (for example) they lose a UDRP or URS case.

But that doesn’t seem to be happening with the opt-out names,

Barry Shein, president of The World, had shein.xyz registered on his behalf by NetSol on Saturday. He already owns shein.com, also registered with NetSol.

NetSol’s email informing him of the registration, which Shein forwarded to DI, reads as follows:

Dear Valued Network Solutions Customer,

Congratulations, your complimentary SHEIN.XYZ domain has arrived!

Your new .XYZ domain is now available in your Network Solutions account and ready to use. To go along with your new .XYZ domain, you have also received complimentary access to Professional Email and Private Registration for your .XYZ domain.

If you choose not to use this domain no action is needed and you will not be charged any fees in the future. Should you decide to keep the domain after your complementary first year, simply renew it like any other domain in your account.

We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again.

Sincerely,

Network Solutions Customer Support
www.networksolutions.com
http://www.networksolutions.com/help/index.jsp

Importantly, a footnote goes on to describe how NetSol will take a refusal to opt out as “continued acceptance” of its registration agreement:

Please note that your use of this .XYZ domain name and/or your refusal to decline the domain shall indicate acceptance of the domain into your account, your continued acceptance of our Service Agreement located online at http://www.networksolutions.com/legal/static-service-agreement.jsp, and its application to the domain.

So, if you’re a NetSol customer who was picked to receive a free .xyz name but for whatever reason you don’t read every marketing email your registrar sends you (who does?) you’ve agreed to the registration agreement without your knowledge or explicit consent, at least according to NetSol.

I am not a lawyer, but I’ve studied enough law to know that this is a dubious way to make a contract. Lawyers I’ve shown this disclaimer to have laughed out loud.

Of course, because each registrant already owns a matching .com, they’ve already accepted NetSol’s registration agreement and terms of service at least once before.

This may allow NetSol to argue that the initial acceptance of the contract also applies to the new .xyz domains.

But there are differences between .com and .xyz.

Chiefly, as a new gTLD, .xyz registrants are subject to policies that do not apply to .com, such as the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

URS differs from UDRP in that there’s a “loser pays” model that applies to complaints involving over 15 domains.

So these .xyz registrants have been opted into a policy that could leave them out of pocket, without their explicit consent.

Of course, we’re talking about people who seem to be infringing famous trademarks in their existing .com names, so who gives a damn, right?

But it does raise some interesting questions.

Who’s the registrant here? Is it the person who owns the .com, or is it NetSol? NetSol is the proxy service, but the .com registrant’s name is listed in the Whois.

Who’s liable for cybersquatting here? Who would Twitter file a UDRP or URS against over my-twitter.xyz? Who would it sue, if it decided to opt for the courts instead?

RADAR to be down at least two weeks after hack

ICANN expects its RADAR registrar database to be offline for “at least two weeks” following the discovery of a security vulnerability that exposed users’ login names and encrypted passwords.

ICANN seems to have been quick to act and to disclose the hack.

The attack happened last weekend and ICANN was informed about it by an “internet user” on Tuesday May 27, according to an ICANN spokesperson. RADAR was taken offline and the problem disclosed late May 28.

The spokesperson added that “we do not believe the user is affiliated with a current or previously accredited registrar.”

ICANN isn’t disclosing the nature of the vulnerability, but said RADAR will be offline for some time for a security audit. The spokesperson told DI in an email:

It will be at least two weeks. It is more important to complete a thorough security assessment of the site than to rush this process. First of all, we’re keeping the system offline until we complete a thorough audit of the system. We are also currently engaged in a security review of all systems and procedures at ICANN to assess and implement ongoing improvements as appropriate.

RADAR is a database used by registrars to coordinate stuff like emergency contacts and IP address whitelisting for bulk Whois access.

The downtime is not expected to impact registrants, according to ICANN. The spokesperson said: “Nothing that occurred has raised any concerns that registrants could or would be adversely affected.”

ICANN registrar database hacked

ICANN’s database of registrar contact information has been hacked and user data has been stolen.

The organization announced this morning that the database, known as RADAR, has been taken offline while ICANN conducts a “thorough review” of its security.

ICANN said:

This action was taken as a precautionary measure after it was learned that an unauthorized party viewed data in the system. ICANN has found no evidence of any unauthorized changes to the data in the system. Although the vulnerability has been corrected, RADAR will remain offline until a thorough review of the system is completed.

Users of the system — all registrars — have had their usernames, email addresses and encrypted passwords compromised, ICANN added.

ICANN noted that it’s possible to brute-force a hashed password into plaintext, so it’s enforcing a password reset on all users, but it has no evidence of any user accounts being accessed.

RADAR users may want to think about whether they have the same username/password combinations at other sites.

RADAR is a database used by registrars in critical functions such as domain name transfers.

Registrars can use it, for example, to white-list the IP addresses of rival registrars, enabling them to execute large amounts of Whois queries that would usually be throttled.

The news follows hot on the heels of a screwup in the Centralized Zone Data Service, which enabled any new gTLD registry to view data belonging to rival registries and other CZDS users.

KnujOn scores a win as BizCN gets first breach notice

The Chinese registrar BizCN has received its first breach notice from ICANN’s compliance department, following a sustained campaign by anti-abuse activist KnujOn.

The notice concerns Whois accuracy, specifically for the domain names rapetube.org and onlinepharmacy4.org, and a bunch of other peripheral breaches of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

The “porn” site rapetube.org was the subject of a Washington Post article last December, in which KnujOn’s Garth Bruen said he feared the site might contain footage of actual crimes.

Bruen has been chasing BizCN about Whois inaccuracy, and specifically the rapetube.org domain, since 2011.

He said in a September 2013 CircleID post that he’s filed Whois inaccuracy complaints about the domain with ICANN “multiple times”.

His campaign against ICANN Compliance led to an Ombudsman complaint (which was rejected) last year.

Now Compliance appears to be taking the case more seriously. ICANN, according to the breach notice, has been on BizCN’s case about rapetube.org’s Whois since March 24 this year.

At that time, the name was registered to a Vietnamese name with a French address and phone number and a contact email address at privacy-protect.cn.

According to Bruen’s interview with the Post, this email address bounced and nobody answered the phone number. The privacy-protect.cn domain does not appear to currently resolve.

ICANN evidently has some unspecified “information” that shows the email “does not appear to be a valid functioning email address”.

But BizCN told ICANN April 2 that it had verified the registrant’s contact information with the registrant, and provided ICANN with correspondence it said demonstrated that.

ICANN says the correspondence it provided actually predated KnujOn’s latest complaint by six months.

In addition, when BizCN forwarded a scanned copy of the registrant’s ID card, ICANN suspected it to be a fake. The notice says:

Registrar provided copies of correspondence between the reseller and registrant. The response included the same email address that was still invalid according to information available to ICANN, and included a copy of a government identification card to confirm the registrant’s address. According to information available to ICANN, the identification card did not conform to any current or previous form of government identification for that jurisdiction.

Despite repeated follow-up calls, ICANN said it still has not received an adequate response from BizCN, so its accreditation is now in jeopardy.

BizCN has something like 450,000 gTLD names under management and is in the top 50 registrars by volume.

As for rapetube.org, it’s still registered with BizCN, but its Whois changed to a Russian company “Privat Line LLP”, at privatlinellp.me, on or about April 17.

That change is not going to help BizCN, however, which is being asked to provide evidence that it took “reasonable steps to investigate and reasonable steps to correct the Whois inaccuracy claims”.

It has until May 29 to sort out the breaches or face termination. Read the breach notice here.

NameCheap gets contract breach notice

ICANN has sent a formal breach notice to top ten registrar NameCheap, saying the company failed to comply with a mandatory audit.

ICANN also claims in the notice (pdf) that the company has failed to keep its web site up to date with pricing information required by policies.

NameCheap, which says it has over three million domains under management, may be the largest registrar to get to the formal, published breach notice stage of the ICANN compliance process.

But it should be noted that while the company is accredited and must comply with its Registrar Accreditation Agreement, it does almost all of its business as an eNom reseller.

Just a handful of domain names are registered under NameCheap’s own IANA number.