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ICANN vows to fight TAS bug “monkey business”

Kevin Murphy, April 20, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN chief security officer Jeff Moss has pledged to fully disclose what new gTLD application data was leaked to which users via the TLD Application System security bug.

Talking to ICANN media chief Brad White in a video interview, Moss said:

We’re putting everyone on notice: we know what file names and user names were displayed to what people who were logged in and when. We want to do this very publicly because we want to prevent any monkey business. We are able to reconstruct what file names and user names were displayed.

ICANN has been going through its logs and will know “very specifically” what data was visible to which TAS users, he said.

The bug, he confirmed, was related to file deletions:

Under certain circumstances that were hard to replicate users that had previously deleted files could end up seeing file names of users that had uploaded a file… Certain data was being revealed to users that were not seeking data, it was just showing up on their screen.

The actual contents of the files uploaded to TAS were not visible to unauthorized users, he confirmed. There are also no reasons to believe any outside attacks occurred, he said.

He refused to reveal how many applicants were affected by the vulnerability, saying that ICANN has to first double-check its data in order to verify the full extent of the problem.

The interview reveals that the bug could manifest itself in a number of different ways. Moss said:

The problem has several ways it can express itself… we would solve it one way and it would appear another way, we would solve it another way and it would appear a third way. At some point we were just uncomfortable that we understood the core issue and that’s when we took the system offline.

TAS was taken down April 12, just 12 hours before the new gTLD application window closed.

ICANN has been providing daily updates ever since, and has promised to reveal tonight when TAS will reopen for business, for how long, and whether April 30 Big Reveal day has been postponed.

Applicants first reported the bug March 19, but ICANN did not realize the extent of the problem until later, Moss said.

In hindsight now we realized the 19th was the first expression of this problem, but at the time the information displayed made no sense to the applicant, it was just random numbers… at that point there were no dots to connect.

Here’s the video:

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How the world’s biggest brands use new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2012, Domain Registries

DomainIncite PRO is excited to reveal the results of the domain name industry’s first in-depth study into how the world’s biggest brands use new generic top-level domains.

In March and April 2012, we surveyed the domain name ownership and usage patterns of the world’s 100 most-valuable brands — representing over $1.2 trillion in brand value, according to Interbrand — in six gTLDs introduced since 2001.

As well as confirming the long-held belief that brand owners see little value in defensive registrations — many not even choosing to benefit from residual traffic — the survey also revealed which brands are more likely to develop their sites, which are most vulnerable to cybersquatting, and which appear to care the least about enforcing their brands.

We also examined how “cybersquatters” use the domain names they register, with some surprising results.

Privacy/proxy registration is not nearly as prevalent as many believe, our study found, and a significant portion of registrants have made no effort to monetize the domains they own that match famous brand names.

This extensive, fully illustrated report includes:

A comparison of defensive registration trends across 100 brands in six new gTLDs. How many domains are owned by the respective brands and how many are owned by third parties? How many are reserved by the registry and how many are still available for registration?

A breakdown of usage trends by gTLD in .asia, .biz, .info, .jobs, .mobi and .pro. When brand owners register domains in new gTLDs, how likely are they to develop content on those domains, and what can new gTLD registries do to encourage this desirable behavior?

An analysis of cybersquatting behavior in over 100 domain names registered to entities other than the brand owner. How much do brand owners have to worry about their brands being impaired by damaging behavior such as redirection to competing web sites or porn?

Full survey results. Subscribers have full access to the survey results, which include details of which brand-domains belong to third parties, which exhibit potentially damaging behavior, and which are currently available for registration.

DI PRO subscribers can click here for the full report.

Non-subscribers can learn how to subscribe instantly here.

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Did a university just pay $3,000 for its .xxx domain?

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2012, Domain Sales

The domain name sju.xxx has changed hands for $3,000 on Sedo.

It’s the first .xxx domain I recall popping up in Sedo’s sales feed.

However, I think there’s a pretty good chance it’s a damage-mitigation move by an American university.

SJU is the acronym used by Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. The college uses sju.edu as its primary domain.

Knowing how paranoid universities have been about protecting their reputations in .xxx, and given that the sale came in just below the price of a cheap UDRP, I suspect we’re looking at a defensive move.

The Whois record for the domain is currently under privacy protection. Until recently, it belonged to one Jay Camina. It resolves to a suggestive Go Daddy parking page.

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First TAS security bug details revealed

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2012, Domain Registries

The data leakage bug in ICANN’s TLD Application System was caused when applicants attempted to delete files they had uploaded, the organization has revealed.

In his latest daily update into the six-day-old TAS downtime, chief operating officer Akram Atallah wrote this morning:

ICANN’s review of the technical glitch that resulted in the TLD application system being taken offline indicates that the issue stems from a problem in the way the system handled interrupted deletions of file attachments. This resulted in some applicants being able to see some other applicants’ file names and user names.

This sounds rather like an applicant’s file names may have become visible to others if the applicant attempted to delete the file (perhaps in order to upload a revised version) and the deletion process was cut off.

Speculating further, this also sounds like exactly the kind of problem that would have been exacerbated by the heavy load TAS was under on April 12, as lots of applicants simultaneously scrambled to get their gTLD bids finalized to deadline.

Rather than being a straightforward web app, TAS is accessed via Citrix XenApp virtual machine software, which provides users with an encrypted tunnel into a Windows box running the application itself.

As you might expect with this set-up, performance issues have been observed for weeks. Every applicant logged into TAS last Thursday reported that it was running even more slowly than usual.

A security bug that only emerged under user load would have been relatively tricky to test for, compared to regular penetration testing.

But ICANN had some good news for applicants this morning: it thinks it will be able to figure out not only whose file names were leaked, but also who they were leaked to. Atallah wrote:

We are also conducting research to determine which applicants’ file names and user names were potentially viewable, as well as which applicants had the ability to see them.

This kind of disclosure would obviously be beneficial to applicants whose data was compromised.

It may also prove surprising and discomfiting to some applicants who were unwittingly on the receiving end of this confidential data but didn’t notice the rogue files on their screens at the time.

ICANN still plans to provide an update on when TAS will reopen for business this Friday. It will also confirm at the time whether it is still targeting April 30 for the Big Reveal.

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US reopens IANA contract re-bid

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s key contract with the US government is open for proposals again, a month after ICANN was told its first bid wasn’t up to the expected standards.

The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration yesterday posted a revised request for proposals, looking for a new IANA contractor.

The IANA contract is what gives ICANN its operational powers over the domain name system root database.

Based on a quick comparison of the new RFP with the old, there have been few notable, substantial changes, giving little indication of why ICANN’s previous response fell short.

The RFP has a strong emphasis on accountability, transparency, separation of ICANN/IANA powers, conflicts of interest and the “global public interest”, as before.

While many of the requirements have been edited, clarified or shifted around, I haven’t been able to spot any major additions or subtractions.

The RFP now envisages a contract running from October 1, 2012 until September 30, 2015, with two two-year renewal options, bringing the expiry date to September 30, 2019.

The deadline for responses is May 31.

The current contract had been due to expire at the end of March but the NTIA unexpected extended it by six months just before ICANN’s meeting in Costa Rica kicked off last month.

The NTIA said it canceled the first RFP “because we received no proposals that met the requirements” but neither it nor ICANN has yet provided any specifics.

Over a month ago, at an ICANN press conference in Costa Rica, CEO Rod Beckstrom said: “We were invited to have a debriefing with [the NTIA] to learn more about this. Following that discussion we will share any information we are allowed to share.”

Since then, no additional information has been forthcoming.

The new RFP can be read here. For comparison, the old version can be downloaded here.

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