Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Two more legacy gTLDs agree to use URS

The registries behind .pro and .cat have agreed to new ICANN contracts with changes that, among other things, would bring the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy to the two gTLDs.

Both gTLD Registry Agreements expire this year. Proposed replacement contracts, based heavily on the base New gTLD Registry Agreement, have been published by ICANN for public comment.

They’re the second and third pre-2012 gTLDs to agree to use URS, which gives trademark owners a simpler, cheaper way to have infringing domains yanked.

Two weeks ago, .travel agreed to the same changes, which drew criticisms from the organization that represents big domain investors.

Phil Corwin of the Internet Commerce Association is worried that ICANN is trying to make URS a de facto consensus policy and thereby bring it to .com, which is still where most domainers have most of their assets.

Following DI’s report about .travel, Corwin wrote last week:

this proposed Registry Agreement (RA) contains a provision through which staff is trying to preempt community discussion and decide a major policy issue through a contract with a private party. And that very big issue is whether Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) should be a consensus policy applicable to all gTLDs, including incumbents like .Com and .Net.

ICANN needs to hear from the global Internet community, in significant volume, that imposing the URS on an incumbent gTLD is unacceptable because it would mean that ICANN staff, not the community, is determining that URS should be a consensus policy and thereby undermining the entire bottom-up policy process. Domain suspensions are serious business – in fact they were at the heart of the SOPA proposal that inspired millions of emails to the US Congress in opposition.

The concern about .com may be a bit over-stated.

Verisign’s current .com contract is presumptively renewed November 2018 provided that it adopts terms similar to those in place at the five next-largest gTLDs.

Given that .net is the second-largest gTLD, and that .net does not have URS, we’d have to either see .net’s volume plummet or at least five new gTLDs break through the 15 million domains mark in the next three years, both of which seem extraordinarily unlikely, for .com to be forced to adopt URS.

However, if URS has become an industry standard by then, political pressure could be brought to bear regardless.

Other changes to .pro and .cat contracts include a change in ICANN fees.

While .pro appears to have been on the standard new gTLD fee scheme since 2012, .cat is currently paying ICANN $1 per transaction.

Under the new contract, .cat would pay $0.25 per transaction instead, but its annual fixed fee would increase from $10,000 to $25,000.

.sucks extends controversial sunrise, delays GA

Vox Populi has extended the pricey .sucks sunrise period for three weeks, saying trademark owners need more time to participate.

Sunrise was due to end this week, with general availability kicking off today.

But Vox Pop has extended the period to June 19, with GA starting two days later.

In an email blast to fellow attendees of the INTA 2015 intellectual property conference, the registry said it has “discovered that far too many intellectual property lawyers and company executives were unaware of the registry or the availability of its names.”

Other brands were unaware of the Trademark Clearinghouse, the email said.

“Additionally, we have seen an influx of applications in the final days and hours of our TMCH Sunrise Period,” Vox Pop said.

“We are concerned about the extent of awareness and rush, and so have decided that the responsible move is to add a bit more time to the equation by extending the TMCH Sunrise period,” it said.

The change in timings have been announced on the registry’s web site.

While it’s possible to read the move cynically — a way for Vox Pop to claw more cash from rights holders — it’s not particularly unusual.

It is not unheard of for launching TLDs to extend their sunrise periods in order to deal with late demand.

Anecdotally, trademark owners tend to delay sunrise purchasing decisions until towards the end of sunrise windows, creating the impression of growing demand and adding pressure to processing cycles.

The .sucks sunrise has come under fire for its pricing — a $1,999 registry fee that is being marked up by registrars by everything from $20 to many hundreds of dollars.

.berlin CEO prime suspect in ICANN data breach

dotBerlin CEO Dirk Krischenowski is suspected of using a bug in ICANN’s new gTLD portal to access hundreds of confidential documents, some containing sensitive financial planning data, belonging to competing gTLD applicants.

That’s according to ICANN documents sent by a source to DI today.

Krischenowski, who has through his lawyer “denied acting improperly or unlawfully”, seems to be the only person ICANN thinks abused its portal’s misconfigured search feature to deliberately access rivals’ secret data.

ICANN said last night that “over 60 searches, resulting in the unauthorized access of more than 200 records, were conducted using a limited set of user credentials”.

But ICANN, in private letters to victims, has been pinning all 60 searches and all 200 access incidents on Krischenowski’s user credentials.

Some of the incidents of unauthorized access were against applicants Krischenowski-run companies were competing against in new gTLD contention sets.

The search terms used to find the private documents included the name of the rival applicant on more than one occasion.

In more than once instance, the data accessed using his credentials was a confidential portion of a rival application explaining the applicant’s “worst case scenario” financial planning, the ICANN letters show.

I’ve reached out to Krischenowski for comment, but ICANN said in its letters to victims:

[Krischenowski] has responded through legal counsel and has denied acting improperly or unlawfully. The user has stated that he is unable to confirm whether he performed the searches or whether the user’s account was used by unauthorized person(s). The user stated that he did not record any information pertaining to other users and that he has not used and will not use the information for any purpose.

Krischenowski is a long-time proponent of the new gTLD program who founded dotBerlin in 2005, many years before it was possible to apply.

Since .berlin launched last year it has added 151,000 domains to its zone file, making it the seventh-largest new gTLD.

The bug in the ICANN portal was discovered in February.

The results on an audit completed last month showed that over the last two years, 19 users used the glitch to access data belonging to 96 applicants and 21 registry operators.

There were 330 incidents of unauthorized access in total, but ICANN seems to have dismissed the non-“Krischenowski” ones as inadvertent.

An ICANN spokesperson declined to confirm or deny Krischenowski is the prime suspect.

Its investigation continues…

FTC slams new gTLDs but waffles over .sucks legality

The US Federal Trade Commission has made some strong criticisms of the new gTLD program but has refused to answer the question of whether .sucks is behaving illegally.

In a letter to ICANN today (pdf), FTC chair Edith Ramirez took the opportunity to ask for a bunch of changes to the program.

But she declined to reply to ICANN’s original question, which was: are Vox Populi’s launch policies and pricing illegal?

Ramirez said she “cannot comment on the existence of any pending investigations” but said “the FTC will monitor the activities of registries and other actors in this arena” and “will take action in appropriate cases”.

She goes on to make three “recommendations” about new gTLDs in general.

She wants ICANN to “encourage the best practice” of all domain registrants to prominently identify themselves on their web sites, so that consumers are not confused.

This will never happen.

Ramirez then says rights protection mechanisms should be strengthened to prevent companies like Vox Pop violating the “spirit” of the RPMs by charging such high prices.

Finally, she echoes the advice of the Governmental Advisory Committee in asking for gTLDs representing regulated industries to have much more stringent registration requirements.

ICANN is of course under no obligation to take these recommendations as anything other than the comments of a single community member.

It’s good news for .sucks — without a determination of illegal behavior ICANN presumably has no reason to act against it.

It remains to be seen what the Canadian regulator, which ICANN also contacted for guidance, will say.

UPDATE: ICANN has just released the following statement from general counsel John Jeffrey:

We want to thank Chairwoman Ramirez for her response and for the FTC’s active interest in ICANN.

We greatly appreciate the Chairwoman’s stated understanding and appreciation of the importance of the concerns ICANN had conveyed regarding the .SUCKS gTLD rollout, as well as the broader set of consumer protection issues relating to the new gTLD program that the FTC has restated in the Chairwoman’s letter.

The FTC’s comments on consumer protection issues throughout the new gTLD program have been an important part of the dialogue of the ICANN community relating to these topics.

New gTLD phishing still tiny, but .xyz sees most of it

New gTLDs are not yet being widely used to carry out phishing runs, but most such attacks are concentrated in .xyz.

That’s one of the conclusions of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, which today published its report for the second half of 2014.

Phishing was basically flat in the second half of the year, with 123,972 recorded attacks.

The number of domains used to phish was 95,321, up 8.4% from the first half of the year.

However, the number of domains that were registered maliciously in order to phish (as opposed to compromised domains) was up sharply — by 20% to 27,253 names.

In the period, 272 TLDs were used, but almost 54% of the attacks used .com domains. In terms of maliciously registered domains, .com fared worse, with over 62% share.

According to APWG, 75% of maliciously registered domains were in .com, .tk, .pw, .cf and .net.

Both .tk and .cf are Freenom-administered free ccTLDs (for Tokelau and the Central African Republic) while low-cost .pw — “plagued” by Chinese phishers — is run by Radix for Palau.

New gTLDs accounted for just 335 of the maliciously registered domains — 1.2% of the total.

That’s about half of what you’d expect given new gTLDs’ share of the overall domain name industry.

Twenty-four new gTLDs had malicious registrations, but .xyz saw most of them. APWG said:

Almost two-thirds of the phishing in the new gTLDs — 288 domains — was concentrated in the .XYZ registry. (Of the 335 maliciously registered domains, 274 were in .XYZ.) This is the first example of malicious registrations clustering in one new gTLD, and we are seeing more examples in early 2015.

XYZ.com aggressively promoted cheap or free .xyz names during the period, but APWG said that only four .xyz phishing names were registered via freebie partner Network Solutions.

In fact, APWG found that most of its phishing names were registered via Xin Net and used to attack Chinese brands.

But, normalizing the numbers to take account of different market shares, .xyz shapes up poorly when compared to .com and other TLDs, in terms of maliciously registered domains. APWG said:

XYZ had a phishing-per-10,000-domains score of 3.6, which was just slightly above the average of 3.4 for all TLDs, and lower than .COM’s score of 4.7. Since most phishing domains in .XYZ were fraudulently registered and most in .COM compromised, .XYZ had a significantly higher incidence of malicious domain registrations per 10,000 coming in at 3.4 versus 1.4 for .COM.

APWG said that it expects the amount of phishing to increase in new gTLDs as registries, finding themselves in a crowded marketplace, compete aggressively on price.

It also noted that the amount of non-phishing abuse in new gTLDs is “much higher” than the phishing numbers would suggest:

Tens of thousands of domains in the new gTLDs are being consumed by spammers, and are being blocklisted by providers such as Spamhaus and SURBL. So while relatively few new gTLD domains have been used for phishing, the total number of them being used maliciously is much higher.

The number of maliciously registered domains containing a variation on the targeted brand was more or less flat, up from 6.6% to 6.8%.

APWG found that 84% of all phishing attacks target Chinese brands and Chinese internet users.

The APWG report can be downloaded here.

UPDATE: XYZ.com CEO Daniel Negari responded to the report by pointing out that phishing attacks using .xyz have a much shorter duration compared to other TLDs, including .com.

According to the APWG report, the average uptime of an attack using .xyz is just shy of 12 hours, compared to almost 28 hours in .com. The median uptime was a little over six hours in .xyz, compared to 10 hours in .com.

Negari said that this was due to the registry’s “aggressive detection and takedowns”. He said XYZ has three full-time employees devoted to handling abuse.