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It’s official: Verisign has balls of steel

Kevin Murphy, October 18, 2013, Domain Registries

Verisign has spent the last six months telling anyone who will listen that new gTLDs will kill Japanese people and cause electricity grids to fail, so you’d expect the company to be a little coy about its own activities that (applying Verisign logic) endanger life and the global economy.

But apparently not.

Verisign today decided to use the same blog it has been using to play up the risks indicated by NXDOMAIN traffic in new gTLDs to plug its own service that actively encourages people to register error-traffic domains.

The company has launched DomainScope, which combines several older “domain discovery” tools — DomainFinder, DomainScore and DomainCountdown — under one roof.

According to an unsigned corporate blog post, with my emphasis:

DomainScope enables users to discover domain name registration opportunities through learning about the recent history of a domain name, understanding a domain name’s DNS traffic patterns, and knowing which domains are available that are receiving traffic.

That’s right, Verisign is giving malicious hackers the ability, for free, to find out which .com, .net and .tv domains currently receive NXDOMAIN traffic, so that the hackers can pay Verisign to register them and cause mayhem.

I used the service today see what mischief might be possible, and hit paydirt on my first query.

Typing in “mail” as the search query, ordering the results by “Traffic Score” — a 1 to 10 measure of how much error traffic a domain already gets — I got these results:

You’ll notice (click to enlarge if you don’t) that the third result, with a 9.9 out of 10 score, is netsoolmail.net.

That caught my attention for obvious reasons, and a little Googling seems to confirm that it’s a typo of netsolmail.net, a domain Network Solutions uses for its mail servers (or possibly a spam filter).

Network Solutions is of course a top-ten registrar with millions of mostly high-end customers.

So what?

Well, if Verisign’s arguments are to be believed, this poses a huge risk of information leakage — something that should be avoided at all costs in new gTLDs but which is apparently just fine in .com and .net.

Emails set to go to netsoolmail.net will fail today due to an NXDOMAIN response. But what happens when somebody registers that domain (which is likely to happen about 10 minutes after this post is published)?

Do they suddenly start receiving thousands of sensitive emails intended for NetSol’s customers?

Could NetSol’s spam filters all start to fail, causing SOMEBODY TO DIE! from a dodgy Viagra?

I don’t know. No clue. Probably not.

But there’s a risk, right? Even if it’s a very small risk (as Verisign argues), shouldn’t ICANN be preventing Verisign from promoting these domains, maybe using some kind of massive block-list?

Data leakage is important enough to Versign that it was the headline risk it posed in a recent report aimed at getting new gTLDs delayed.

In an August “technical report” entitled “New gTLD Security, Stability, Resiliency Update: Exploratory Consumer Impact Analysis”, somebody from Verisign wrote (pdf):

once delegated, the registrants under new gTLDs have the ability to register specific domains for targeted collisions

This form of information leakage can violate privacy of users, provide a competitive advantage between business rivals, expose details of corporate network infrastructures, or even be used to infer details about geographical locations of network assets or users

What the report fails to mention is that registrants today have this ability, and that Verisign is actively encouraging the practice.

In Yiddish they call what Verisign has done today chutzpah.

In British English, we call it taking the piss.

dotShabaka Diary — Day 20, Positive signs?

Kevin Murphy, October 18, 2013, Domain Registries

The twentieth installment of dotShabaka Registry’s journal, charting its progress towards becoming one of the first new gTLDs to go live, written by general manager Yasmin Omer.

Friday 18 October 2013

Maybe we are starting to see some positive steps from ICANN towards delegation:

We received a revised Registry Agreement, Specification six that includes the requirements for Name Collision Occurrence Management and Report Handling.

ICANN made an announcement that included the statement that collision “…assessments and SLD lists will be posted to the specific TLD’s registry agreement page on the ICANN website. The first of these will be available before the end of this week.”

ICANN reached out this week and requested a detailed list of contacts for legal, media, financial, emergency, CZDS, TMDB, abuse, URS and compliance.

We are still waiting for ICANN to comment on the TMCH launch issues highlighted in our 12 October 12 journal.

Oh, and we are still waiting for the Welcome Pack!

Read previous and future diary entries here.

.shopping ruled confusingly similar to .shop

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2013, Domain Registries

An International Centre for Dispute Resolution panelist has ruled that .shop and .shopping are too confusingly similar to coexist on the internet.

The panelist was Robert Nau, the same guy who ruled that .通販 and .shop are confusingly similar.

Again, the objector is .shop applicant Commercial Connect, which filed String Confusion Objections against almost every new gTLD application related to buying stuff online.

The defendant in this case was Donuts, via subsidiary Sea Tigers LLC.

Here’s the key part of the decision:

the concurrent use of “shopping”, the participle, and the root word “shop”, in gTLD strings will result in probable confusion by the average, reasonable Internet user, because the two strings have sufficient similarity in sound, meaning, look and feel. The average Internet user would not be able to differentiate between the two strings, and in the absence of some other external information (such as an index or guidebook) would have to guess which of the two strings contains the information the user is looking to view.

The adopters of the applicable standard of review for string confusion hypothetically could have allowed an unlimited number of top level domain names using the same root, and simply differentiate them by numbers, e.g., <.shop1>, <.shop2>, <.shop3>, etc., or other modifiers, including pluralization, or other similar variations of a root word, or other modifiers before or after the root word. While that might allow for increased competition, as argued by Applicant, it would only lead to a greater level of confusion and uncertainty among average, reasonable Internet users. Accordingly, the Applicant’s argument that the concurrent use of a root word and its participle version in a string increases competition is not persuasive in this context, and is rejected.

So far, Commercial Connect has lost 15 of the 21 SCOs it filed, against strings as weird as .supply and .shopyourway. Four cases remain open.

There are nine applicants for .shop, including Commercial Connect. Uniregistry has also applied for .shopping, but did not receive an objection.

Name collision block-lists to be published this week

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN will begin to publish the lists of domains that new gTLD registries must block at launch as early as this week, according to an updated name collisions plan released last night.

Registries that have already signed contracts with ICANN will be given their block-lists “before the end of this week”, ICANN said.

Registries that were not able to sign contracts because they’d been given an “uncalculated risk” categorization will now be invited, in priority order, to contracting.

The base Registry Agreement itself has been updated — unilaterally — to include provisions requiring registries to block second-level names deemed risky when they are delegated.

For each contracted gTLD, ICANN will provide what it’s calling a SLD Collision Occurrence Assessment, which will outline the steps registries need to take to mitigate their own collision risk.

It is also expected to contain a list of SLDs that have been seen on the Day In The Life Of The Internet data sets, collected from root server operators over 48-hour periods between 2006 and 2013.

Using previous years’ DITL data is news to me, and could potentially greatly expand the number of SLDs — already expected to be in the thousands in many cases — that registries are obliged to block.

“Most” new gTLD applicants are expected to be eligible for what ICANN calls an “alternative path to delegation”, in which the registry simply blocks the SLDs on an ICANN-provided list, gets delegated, and deals with the SLD Collision Occurrence Assessment at a later date.

Here’s how ICANN described the timetable for this:

For Registry Operators with executed registry agreements the Assessments and SLD lists will be posted to the specific TLD’s registry agreement page on the ICANN website. The first of these will be available before the end of this week.

In the coming weeks ICANN will post the alternative path eligibility assessments and SLD lists for all applied-for gTLDs.

In other words, if you haven’t already signed a contract there’s not yet a firm date on when you’ll find out how many — and which — names you’re expected to block, or even if you’re eligible for the alternative delegation path.

dotShabaka Diary — Day 19

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2013, Domain Registries

The eighteenth installment of dotShabaka Registry’s journal, charting its progress towards becoming one of the first new gTLDs to go live, written by general manager Yasmin Omer.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Still no advice from ICANN on transition to IANA. As we approach the transition to delegation and start launch processes, we remain concerned about the following process and schedule risks:

ICANN have made references to the TLD Startup information being submitted “…via the customer service portal or other mechanism” but have not provided details. We are concerned that the TLD Startup interface has not been provided. Why not allow TLDs to enter the information now and submit it to ICANN once delegated to the root zone?

The process to ‘Email ICANN CSC – Confirm Tests Completed’ is not documented. Without a process definition or certificate to confirm IBM’s email advice that شبكة. has “passed TMDB testing” we risk ICANN rejecting the launch submission and the Sunrise schedule being thrown out.

ICANN have stated the TLD Startup Information must include confirmation that the TMCH Sunrise and Claims Operator has accepted the start and end dates prior to the Registry Operator providing the TLD Startup Information. There is no process documented for submitting the start and end dates to the TMCH.

If we choose the ‘Alternate Path to Delegation’ as defined in the ‘New gTLD Collision Occurrence Management Plan’ we need to block all second-level labels that appear in DNS requests to the applied-for TLD in the DITL and other relevant dataset. ICANN have committed to developing the list of labels but have not defined a timeline or distribution process. Why not distribute the list now so we don’t have to manage Registry change after the transition process starts?

Read previous and future diary entries here.