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Russian domain crackdown halves phishing attacks

Kevin Murphy, August 20, 2010, Domain Tech

Phishing attacks from .ru domains dropped by almost half in the second quarter, after tighter registration rules were brought in, according to new research.

Attacks from the Russian ccTLD namespace fell to 528, compared to 1,020 during the first quarter, according to Internet Identity’s latest report.

IID attributed the decline to the newly instituted requirement for all registrants to provide identifying documents or have their domains cancelled, which came into effect on April 1.

The report goes on to say:

Following a similar move by the China Internet Network Information Center in December 2009, spam researchers suggested that this tactic only moves the criminals to a new neighborhood on the Internet, but has no real impact on solving the problem.

I wonder whose ccTLD is going to be next.

The IID report also highlights a DNS redirection attack that took place in June in Israel, which I completely missed at the time.

Apparently, major brands including Microsoft and Coca-Cola started displaying pro-Palestine material on their .co.il web sites, for about nine hours, after hackers broke into their registrar accounts at Communigal.

McAfee calls for ICANN spam crackdown

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Tech

The security company McAfee has claimed that ICANN needs to try harder in the fight against spam by cracking down on rogue registrars.

In a report released today, the company makes the bold assertion that ICANN “holds the trump card to the spam problem” and that it should step up its compliance efforts.

Although ICANN cannot stop spam itself and does not link spammers to the Internet, it does accredit the registrars that sell the domains that cybercriminals use to fill our inboxes with advertisements and malware

McAfee notes that ICANN has previously de-accredited spammer-friendly registrars such as the notorious EstDomains, but that it needs to do more.

ICANN needs to continue this trend against registrars that knowingly provide domain services to cybercriminals. The organization also needs to harden its policies that define under what circumstances an accreditation can be revoked, so that it can take quicker action against rogue registrars.

The claims come in a report entitled “Security Takes The Offensive”, available here.

The report does not lay all the blame for spam at ICANN’s door, of course. The author also goes after ISPs and the SMTP protocol itself.

The report does not point out that there are 250-odd TLDs over which ICANN has no registrar accreditation powers whatsoever.

Despite my best efforts with Google, I’ve been unable to find a single instance of McAfee publicly participating in ICANN policy-making, so I have to wonder how serious it is.

At least guys like KnuJon are not afraid to show up at meetings and stir things up a bit.

Vixie declares war on domain name crooks

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2010, Domain Tech

Bad news for domain name speculators?

Paul Vixie of the Internet Systems Consortium has plans to bring the equivalent of an anti-spam blacklist to the DNS itself.

The Response Policy Zones spec, drafted by Vixie and Vernon Schryver of Rhyolite, is designed to allow ISPs, for example, to block domains based on standardized reputation data.

In this blog post, Vixie writes that the next version of BIND will include the technology. ISC has also made patches available for those who want to test RPZ now.

This kind of technology has been available for mail servers for years, and can be found to an extent in desktop software and search engines, but RPZ would bake it into the DNS itself.

For users behind a recursive name server implementing RPZ, domains with bad reputations would either not resolve or would be redirected elsewhere.

It would not, however, provide a mechanism to wildcard non-existent domain data and bounce surfers to search/advertising pages. Many ISPs already do that anyway.

If you speculate at all in domain names, the opening paragraphs are probably the most interesting part of the post (my emphasis):

Most new domain names are malicious.

I am stunned by the simplicity and truth of that observation. Every day lots of new names are added to the global DNS, and most of them belong to scammers, spammers, e-criminals, and speculators.

I’m sure there’s a fair few law-abiding speculators reading this who won’t be happy being lumped in with criminals and spammers.

Luckily for them, Vixie said that the ISC will limit itself to providing the technology and the specification; it will not act as a reputation service provider.

The ISC is the Microsoft of the DNS, BIND its Windows, so we could expect a fairly broad level of adoption when the technology becomes available.

Vixie’s post, also published at CircleID, is well worth a read. If anything, it certainly goes a way to cement Vixie’s reputation as the grumpy old man of the DNS.

Browser makers brush me off on DNSSEC support

Kevin Murphy, July 29, 2010, Domain Tech

A couple of weeks back, I emailed PR folk at Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Opera, asking if they had any plans to provide native support for DNSSEC in their browsers.

As DNS uber-hacker Dan Kaminsky and ICANN president Rod Beckstrom have been proselytizing this week at the Black Hat conference, support at the application layer is the next step if DNSSEC is to quickly gain widespread traction.

The idea is that one day the ability to validate DNSSEC messages will be supported by browsers in much the same way as SSL certificates are today, maybe by showing the user a green address bar.

CZ.NIC has already created a DNSSEC validator plugin for Firefox that does precisely that, but as far as I can tell there’s no native support for the standard in any browser.

These are the responses I received:

Mozilla: “Our team is heads down right now with Firefox 4 beta releases so unfortunately, I am not going to be able to get you an answer.”

Microsoft:
“At this stage, we’re focusing on the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview releases. The platform preview is a developer and designer scoped release of Internet Explorer 9, and is not feature complete, we will have more to share about Internet Explorer 9 in the future.”

Google: No reply.

Opera: No reply.

In 11 years of journalism, Apple’s PR team has never replied to any request for information or comment from me, so I didn’t bother even trying this time around.

But the responses from the other four tell us one of two things:

  • Browser makers haven’t started thinking about DNSSEC yet.

Or…

  • Their PR people were just trying to brush me off.

I sincerely hope it’s the former, otherwise this blog post has no value whatsoever.

ICANN chief to address hackers at Black Hat

Kevin Murphy, July 27, 2010, Domain Tech

Globe-trotting ICANN president Rod Beckstrom is heading to Vegas this week, to participate in a panel discussion on DNS security at the Black Hat conference at Caesar’s Palace.

He’ll be joined by Dan Kaminsky, discoverer of the notorious DNS vulnerability that bears his name, and is expected to sing the praises of the new DNSSEC security standard.

Also on tomorrow’s panel, entitled “Systemic DNS Vulnerabilities and Risk Management” are DNS inventor Paul Mockapetris, VeriSign CTO Ken Silva and NERC CSO Mark Weatherford.

ICANN and VeriSign recently signed the DNS root using DNSSEC standard. The challenge they face now is persuading everybody else in the world to jump on the bandwagon.

It’s likely to be slow going. DNSSEC has more than its fair share of skeptics, and even fierce proponents of the standard sometimes acknowledge that there’s not a heck of a lot in the way of a first mover advantage.

I’ll be interested to see if the subject of a DNS-CERT – a body to coordinate DNS security efforts – is raised either during the panel or the subsequent press conference.

From a policy point of view, DNSSEC is pretty much a done deal, whereas a DNS-CERT is still very much a matter for debate within the ICANN community.

I believe this is the first time ICANN has talked publicly at Black Hat. Beckstrom himself has taken the stage under his previous roles in government, but not as ICANN’s top dog.

Despite its name, Black Hat is a pretty corporate event nowadays. In my experience, the proper black/gray hats show up (or swap their lime green corporate polo shirts for Metallica T-shirts) at the weekend for Def Con, which is usually held at a cheaper venue around the corner.