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Independent Objector launches web site

Kevin Murphy, October 26, 2012, Domain Registries

The new gTLD program’s Independent Objector has launched his own web site, independently from ICANN.

Alain Pellet is the French international law expert appointed in May to the IO role. The new web site also reveals that one Julien Boissise is assisting him.

The IO’s job is to file Community Objections and Limited Public Interest Objections against new gTLD applications, should the need arise.

In practice, I’d be very surprised to see any of the latter filed during the current application round, but I’d expect to see several Community Objections.

Pellet will file his objections before January 13, according to the web site. That’s the current objection-filing deadline, which ICANN plans to extend to March 13.

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US probing Verisign price hikes, .com contract may be extended

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2012, Domain Registries

The US Departments of Commerce and Justice are investigating the price increase provisions of Verisign’s .com registry agreement.

Verisign CEO Jim Bidzos disclosed the “review” on a conference call with financial analysts tonight.

It is likely that it will last beyond November 30 2012, the date the current .com agreement expires, he said.

“There’s a possibility it will not be complete by November 30,” he said.

A special six-month extension is likely to be triggered, he said.

“The status of our ability to operate .com is not an issue here,” he said.

He declined to comment on questions related to the likelihood that the company would be forced to change its pricing plans.

Verisign has spent $3.9 million in legal and other fees related to the US review, it emerged during the call.

ICANN approved the contract, which gives Verisign the right to increase its .com registry fees by 7% in four of the next six years, in June.

ICANN will see an extra $8 million in revenue from Verisign as a result.

Due to the special nature of .com, Justice and Commerce approval is required before the contract can be renewed. Verisign had previously expected that to come before November 30.

Verisign shares are trading down 14% in after-hours trading following the news.

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Only 2% of phishing attacks use cybersquatted domain names

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2012, Domain Registries

The number of cybersquatted domain names being used for phishing is falling sharply and currently stands at just 2% of attacks, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

The APWG’s first-half 2012 report (pdf) identified 64,204 phishing domains in total.

Of those, the group believes that only 7,712 (12%) were actually registered by the phishers themselves. The rest belonged to innocent third parties and had been compromised.

That’s a steep drop from 12,895 domains in the second half of 2011 and 14,650 in the first half of 2011.

Of the 7,712 phisher-owned domains, about 66% were being use to phish Chinese targets, according to the APWG.

The group’s research found only 1,350 that contained a brand name or a misspelling of a brand name.

That’s down from 2,232 domains in the second-half of 2011, representing just 2% of all phishing domains and 17% of phisher-owned domains.

The report states:

Most maliciously registered domain strings offered nothing to confuse a potential victim. Placing brand names or variations thereof in the domain name itself is not a favored tactic, since brand owners are proactively scanning Internet zone files for such names.

As we have observed in the past, the domain name itself usually does not matter to phishers, and a domain name of any meaning, or no meaning at all, in any TLD, will usually do.

Instead, phishers almost always place brand names in subdomains or subdirectories. This puts the misleading string somewhere in the URL, where potential victims may see it and be fooled. Internet users are rarely knowledgeable enough to be able to pick out the “base” or true domain name being used in a URL.

Taken as a percentage of attacks, brand-jacking is clearly a pretty low-occurrence offence, according to the APWG’s numbers.

In absolute numbers, it works out to about 7.5 domain names per day that are being use to phish and contain a variation of the brand name being targeted.

Unsurprisingly, the APWG found that Freedom Registry’s .tk — which offers free registration — is the TLD being abused most often to register domains for phishing attacks.

More than half of the phisher-owned domains were in .tk, according to the report.

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First .post domains going live

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2012, Domain Registries

After entering the DNS root in August, the .post gTLD has started accepting its first registrations.

The Italian postal service is one of the first web sites with a .post address to go live, according to the Universal Postal Union, the registry manager.

Its site at posteitaliane.post appears to be more than just a mirror of its main .it site.

The postal services from Malaysia and Brazil have also signed up, according to the UPU.

The UPU has grand plans for the gTLD, promising a “global track and trace application” that will “enable customers to track the items they have ordered until final delivery.”

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ICM puts $7.7 million of .xxx domains up for sale

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2012, Domain Sales

Having already sold over $5 million worth of premium .xxx domains names, ICM Registry is putting another 1,000 names on the market, with a total purchase price of over $7.7 million.

Unusually for registry-reserved names, which usually end up at auction, all of the names are priced to sell.

Prices range from $220,000 for girls.xxx to $330 for provide.xxx.

Along with the full list of available names, ICM has also published some rough guides to likely traffic, based on its data gleaned from running search.xxx for the last few weeks.

A “Search Rank” stat ranks the popularity of the relevant keyword in search.xxx queries, while “Traffic Rank” divides the list into five categories by likely traffic volume.

ICM privately sold about $4 million of premium .xxx domains during its pre-launch Founders Program. Domainer Frank Schilling is believed to have invested seven figures.

Its biggest single sale to date is believed to be gay.xxx, which was snapped up for $500,000 last year.

ICM CEO Stuart Lawley told DI that the company still has about 500 premium names — including cams.xxx and tube.xxx — held in reserve to be released at a later date.

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