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ICANN security advisor predicts “hundreds” of new gTLDs will “go dark”

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2015, Domain Registries

A security company led by a member of ICANN’s top security committee reckons that “hundreds” of new gTLDs are set to fail, leading to web sites “going dark”.

Internet Identity, which provides threat data services, made the prediction in a press release this week.

IID’s CTO, quoted in the release, is Rod Rasmussen. He’s a leading member of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, as well as a member of ICANN’s influential Security and Stability Advisory Committee.

He has a dim view of new gTLDs:

Most new gTLDs have failed to take off and many have already been riddled with so many fraudulent and junk registrations that they are being blocked wholesale. This will eventually cause ripple effects on the entire domain registration ecosystem, including consolidation and mass consumer confusion as unprofitable TLDs are dropped by their sponsoring registries.

The press release acknowledges that ICANN has an Emergency Back-End Registry Operator (EBERO) program, which will keep failing gTLDs alive for up to three years after the original registry operator goes out of business.

But it continues:

questions abound as to who would risk an investment in poorly performing TLDs, especially as they start to number in the hundreds. “That’s why eventually some are going to just plain go dark,” added Rasmussen.

The prediction is for “2017 and beyond”. Given the existence of the EBERO, we’re probably looking at 2020 before IID’s claim can be tested.

It’s a bit of a strange prediction to come out of a security company.

The whole point of EBERO is to make sure domain names do not go dark, giving either the registry the chance to sell on the gTLD or the registrants a three-year heads-up that they need to migrate to a different TLD.

It would be a bit like being told that there’s a horrible bit of malware that is set to brick your computer, but that you’ll be fine if you change your anti-virus provider in the next three years.

I could live with that kind of security threat, personally.

But what are the chances of hundreds of live, non-dot-brand going fully post-EBERO dead in the next few years?

I’d say evidence to date shows the risk may be over-stated. It may happen to a small number of TLDs, but to “hundreds”?

We’ve already seen new gTLD registries essentially fail, and they’ve been taken over by others even when they’re by definition not profitable.

Notably, .hiv — which has a contractual agreement with ICANN to not turn a profit — failed and was nevertheless acquired by Uniregistry.

We also see registries including Afilias and Donuts actively searching for failing gTLDs to acquire.

It’s official: new gTLDs didn’t kill anyone

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2015, Domain Tech

The introduction of new gTLDs posed no risk to human life.

That’s the conclusion of JAS Advisors, the consulting company that has been working with ICANN on the issue of DNS name collisions.

It is final report “Mitigating the Risk of DNS Namespace Collisions”, published last night, JAS described the response to the “controlled interruption” mechanism it designed as “annoyed but understanding and generally positive”.

New text added since the July first draft says: “ICANN has received fewer than 30 reports of disruptive collisions since the first delegation in October of 2013. None of these reports have reached the threshold of presenting a danger to human life.”

That’s a reference to Verisign’s June 2013 claim that name collisions could disrupt “life-supporting” systems such as those used by emergency response services.

Names collisions, you will recall, are scenarios in which a newly delegated TLD matches a string that it is already used widely on internal networks.

Such scenarios could (and have) led to problems such as system failure and DNS queries leaking on to the internet.

The applied-for gTLDs .corp and .home have been effectively banned, due to the vast numbers of organizations already using them.

All other gTLDs were obliged, following JAS recommendations, to redirect all non-existent domains to 127.0.53.53, an IP address chosen to put network administrators in mind of port 53, which is used by the DNS protocol.

As we reported a little over a year ago, many administrators responded swearily to some of the first collisions.

JAS says in its final report:

Over the past year, JAS has monitored technical support/discussion fora in search of posts related to controlled interruption and DNS namespace collisions. As expected, controlled interruption caused some instances of limited operational issues as collision circumstances were encountered with new gTLD delegations. While some system administrators expressed frustration at the difficulties, overall it appears that controlled interruption in many cases is having the hoped-for outcome. Additionally, in private communication with a number of firms impacted by controlled interruption, JAS would characterize the overall response as “annoyed but understanding and generally positive” – some even expressed appreciation as issues unknown to them were brought to their attention.

There are a number of other substantial additions to the report, largely focusing on types of use cases JAS believes are responsible for most name collision traffic.

Oftentimes, such as the random 10-character domains Google’s Chrome browser uses for configuration purposes, the collision has no ill effect. In other cases, the local system administrators were forced to remedy their software to avoid the collision.

The report also reveals that the domain name corp.com, which is owned by long-time ICANN volunteer Mikey O’Connor, receives a “staggering” 30 DNS queries every second.

That works out to almost a billion (946,728,000) queries per year, coming when a misconfigured system or inexperienced user attempts to visit a .corp domain name.

Bladel romps home in ICANN election re-run

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2015, Domain Policy

Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel has been elected chair of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council.

The result came a month after the GNSO Council embarrassingly failed to elect a chair to replace outgoing Jonathan Robinson.

This time Bladel ran unopposed, securing the unanimous support of both his own Contracted Parties House and the Non-Contracted Parties House, which did not field a candidate.

In the October vote, the NCPH had nominated academic Heather Forrest.

Due to personal friction between commercial and non-commercial NCPH Council members, Bladel lost that election to “none of the above” by a single vote.

Forrest has been elected vice-chair, along with Neustar’s Donna Austin.

Volker Greimann and David Cake, who had been running the Council on an interim basis for the last month, have stepped aside.

ICANN reveals 12 more data breaches

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2015, Domain Registries

Twelve more new gTLD applicants have been found to have exploited a glitch in ICANN’s new gTLD portal to view fellow applicants’ data.

ICANN said last night that it has determined that all 12 access incidents were “inadvertent” and did not disclose personally identifiable information.

The revelation follows an investigation that started in April this year.

ICANN said in a statement:

in addition to the previous disclosures, 12 user credentials were used to access contact information from eight registry operators. Based on the information collected during the investigation it appears that contact information for registry operators was accessed inadvertently. ICANN also concluded that the exposed registry contact information does not appear to contain sensitive personally identifiable information. Each of the affected parties has been notified of the data exposure.

The glitch in question was a misconfiguration of a portal used by gTLD applicants to file and view their documents.

It was possible to use the portal’s search function to view attachments belonging to other applicants, including competing applicants for the same string.

Donuts said in June that the prices it was willing to pay at auction for gTLD string could have been inferred from the compromised data.

ICANN told compromised users in May that the only incidents of non-accidental data access could be traced to the account of Dirk Krischenowski, CEO of dotBerlin.

Krischenowski has denied any wrongdoing.

ICANN said last night that its investigation is now over.

ICANN reveals $1m of not-lobbying lobbying expenses

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN has revealed how much it has spent so far on a few controversial professional services firms that have been accused of “lobbying” the US government on behalf of the organization.

It said today that between July 2015 and September 2015 it spent $1,070,438 on six companies providing “Education/Engagement” services related to the transition of IANA from US government oversight.

Two of the payees are consulting firms run by former high-level US officials.

One is Albright Stonebridge Group LLC, founded by Clinton-era secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

The other is Rice Hadley Gates LLC, which counts W-era officials Condoleeza Rice, Stephen Rice and Robert Gates as its principles.

The $1 million figure also includes payouts to PR firm Edelman, which has been working with ICANN for as long as I can remember, a video production company, and two other consultants.

It’s substantially less than the $2.4 million spend estimated by Kieren McCarthy, whose public-forum questions at the last two ICANN meetings and subsequent The Register article seem to be responsible for the latest disclosures.

McCarthy, in heated public clashes with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade, had argued that these payouts were essentially “lobbying” expenses that had not been disclosed because they fall into a “loophole” in US regulations that require lobbyists to disclose their clients.

ICANN said it spent $765,829 on external lobbying services — both related to the IANA transition and not — over the same period.

Its in-house lobbyist, James Hedlund, has separately disclosed a spend of $890,000 over the period.

McCarthy had argued that ICANN was trying to hide the true extent of its lobbying, because it’s trying to make a case with US authorities for ICANN the organization that is at odds with what the community-led IANA transition process is trying to achieve.

Today’s disclosures show that ICANN spent $4,809,949 — almost half of its transition-related professional services spend — on the two law firms that have been advising the two volunteer groups developing the IANA transition proposals.

It spent a more modest $1,150,213 on its own legal advisers, Jones Day.