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Firefox gives greater visibility to domains

Kevin Murphy, June 27, 2011, Domain Tech

Mozilla has reportedly dropped the http:// from the address bar in the latest pre-release version of the Firefox browser, in order to make the domain more prominent.

The changes, spotted over at ConceivablyTech, would also remove the trailing slash from URLs and present everything other than the top and second level of the domain in gray text.

So instead of

http://www.example.com/

you’d see something like

www.example.com

Google Chrome already does something similar, although it presents the lower levels of the domain in the same shade text as the top two.

The blog reported that the https:// will continue to be displayed for encrypted pages.

Earlier this year, Google was reported to be working on a Chrome UI that dropped the address bar altogether, which struck me as one of the more idiotic ideas — from a choice of many — to come out of the company.

Find domain keywords with new VeriSign apps

Kevin Murphy, June 10, 2011, Domain Tech

VeriSign has released a suite of cute applications for visualizing keywords mined from newly registered domain names.

DomainView has been around for a few months as a tag cloud on the VeriSign web site, but it’s now also an embeddable web widget and a scrolling ticker plug-in for Firefox and Chrome browsers.

The service samples recently registered .com and .net domains for recurring keywords, and spits those keywords back out, along with a short list of related domains that are available to register.

The company is planning to release an iPhone app in the near future, and there’s an API for developers to use today.

I’ve installed the ticker. It’s a nice idea, but it does get a bit distracting after a few minutes. Thankfully, it can be hidden through the options menu.

You can find the new applications here.

IPv6 addresses are the new domain hacks

Kevin Murphy, June 8, 2011, Domain Tech

It’s World IPv6 Day today, and a number of companies have decided to get a little playful with their new IP addresses, using them to spell out their brands.

IPv6 uses hexadecimal notation – the 10 digits and the letters A through F – so it’s possible to use them as “vanity” addresses using something like h4x0r-speak or license plate hacks.

Here’s a few IPv6 “hacks” I’ve found in AAAA records so far today:

BBC – bbc.net.uk – 2001:4b10:bbc::1

Facebook – facebook.com – 2620:0:1c18:0:face:b00c:0:3

Cisco – cisco.com – 2001:420:80:1:c:15c0:d06:f00d (Cisco dog food)

F5 Networks – f5.com – 2001:19b8:101:2::f5f5:1d

US Department of Commerce – commerce.gov – 2610:20:0:20:5ec:d0c:d0c:d0c

A few more, such as Daily Kos’ 2001:48c8:1:c::feeb:beef, seem deliberate but don’t seem to pertain particularly to the site’s brand.

I don’t think anybody’s going to use these addresses to navigate, but I suppose they make prove useful mnemonics for address administrators within those companies.

Experts say piracy law will break the internet

Kevin Murphy, May 26, 2011, Domain Tech

Five of the world’s leading DNS experts have come together to draft a report slamming America’s proposed PROTECT IP Act, comparing it to the Great Firewall of China.

In a technical analysis of the bill’s provisions, the authors conclude that it threatens to weaken the security and stability of the internet, putting it at risk of fragmentation.

The bill (pdf), proposed by Senator Leahy, would force DNS server operators, such as ISPs, to intercept and redirect traffic destined for domains identified as hosting pirated content.

The new paper (pdf) says this behavior is easily circumvented, incompatible with DNS security, and would cause more problems than it solves.

The paper was written by: Steve Crocker, Shinkuro; David Dagon, Georgia Tech; Dan Kaminsky, DKH; Danny McPherson, Verisign and Paul Vixie of the Internet Systems Consortium.

These are some of the brightest guys in the DNS business. Three sit on ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee and Crocker is vice-chairman of ICANN’s board of directors.

One of their major concerns is that PROTECT IP’s filtering would be “fundamentally incompatible” with DNSSEC, the new security protocol that has been strongly embraced by the US government.

The authors note that any attempts to redirect domains at the DNS level would be interpreted as precisely the kind of man-in-the-middle attack that DNSSEC was designed to prevent.

They also point out that working around these filters would be easy – changing user DNS server settings to an overseas provider would be a trivial matter.

PROTECT IP’s DNS filtering will be evaded through trivial and often automated changes through easily accessible and installed software plugins. Given this strong potential for evasion, the long-term benefits of using mandated DNS filtering to combat infringement seem modest at best.

If bootleggers start using dodgy DNS servers in order to find file-sharing sites, they put themselves at risk of other types of criminal activity, the paper warns.

If piracy sites start running their own DNS boxes and end users start subscribing to them, what’s to stop them pharming users by capturing their bank or Paypal traffic, for example?

The paper also expresses concern that a US move to legitimize filtering could cause other nations to follow suit, fragmenting the mostly universal internet.

If the Internet moves towards a world in which every country is picking and choosing which domains to resolve and which to filter, the ability of American technology innovators to offer products and services around the world will decrease.

This, incidentally, is pretty much the same argument used to push for the rejection of the .xxx top-level domain (which Crocker voted for).

ICANN hires hacker Dark Tangent as security chief

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2011, Domain Tech

Noted white-hat hacker Jeff “Dark Tangent” Moss is to join ICANN as its new chief security officer.

Moss founded the Black Hat and Def Con hacker conferences (which I highly recommend), and was once a director of firewall vendor Secure Computing.

If you’re not familiar with security lingo, “hacker” in this context means he’s one of the good guys. He’s also one of a couple dozen members of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council.

The ICANN press release announcing the appointment (pdf) is filled with plaudits from some of the industry’s top DNS security geeks.

Paul Vixie, chairman and chief scientist of the Internet Systems Consortium is quoted as saying:

This is a great hire for ICANN. Jeff’s been in the infosec community since the dawn of time and not only knows where the weak spots are but also how they got that way, and what needs to be done and by whom. He’s the ideal person to drive ICANN’s security agenda.

He’s also been named vice-president. He starts work at the ICANN Washington DC office tomorrow.