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Hackers may have stolen .edu domain passwords

Kevin Murphy, February 19, 2013, Domain Registries

Owners of .edu domain names have been told to change their passwords after hackers compromised a server belonging to registry manager Educause.

The registry said today that it has deactivated the admin passwords for all .edu domains after discovering a “security breach” that gave attackers access to hashed passwords for .edu registrants.

The attack also compromised passwords for users of the Educause web site, the organization said.

The .edu domain is of course reserved for US-based educational institutions, and is considered one of the most secure and prestigious TLDs available.

Educause said it “immediate steps to contain this breach and is working with Federal law enforcement, investigators, and security experts to make sure this incident is properly addressed.”

The registry did not say whether the attack is related to the attack against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last month, which reportedly was enabled via an Educase hack.

Is .home back on ICANN’s new gTLD risk list?

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2013, Domain Tech

While most new gTLD applicants were focused on delays to the program revealed during last Friday’s ICANN webinar, another bit of news may also be a cause for concern for .home applicants.

As Rubens Kuhl of Nic.br spotted, ICANN revealed that 11 applications have not yet passed their DNS Stability check.

SLide

That’s a reversal from November, when ICANN said that all new gTLD applications had passed the stability review.

As I noted at the time, that was good news for .home, which some say may cause security problems if it is delegated.

As Kuhl observed, there are exactly 11 applications for .home, the same as the number of applications that now appear to have un-passed the DNS Stability check.

So is ICANN taking a closer look at .home, or is it just a numerical coincidence?

The string is considered risky by many because .home already receives a substantial amount of DNS traffic at the root servers, which will be inherited by whichever company wins the contention set.

It’s on a list of frequently requested invalid TLDs produced by ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee which was incorporated by reference in the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook.

Some major ISPs, notably BT in the UK, use .home as a pseudo-TLD in their residential routers.

IEDR admits blame for hack that brought down Google and Yahoo

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2012, Domain Registries

IEDR, the Irish ccTLD registry, has admitted that an attack on its own web servers was responsible for google.ie and yahoo.ie being hijacked last month.

In a detailed statement, the registry said that hackers spent 25 days probing for weaknesses in its systems, before eventually breaking in through a vulnerability in the Joomla content management software.

This enabled the attackers to upload malicious PHP scripts and access the back-end database, according to the statement. They then redirected yahoo.ie and google.ie to an Indonesian web site.

It’s a reverse of position for IEDR, which had appeared to blame one of its registrars (believed to be Mark Monitor) for the lapse in security when the hack was discovered last month.

IEDR told ZDNet October 11: “an unauthorised change was made to two .ie domains on an independent registrar’s account which resulted in a change of DNS nameservers”.

But today it said instead: “The IEDR investigation also confirmed that neither the Registrar of the affected domains nor its systems had any responsibility for this incident.”

The registry has filed a complaint with the Irish police over the incident, and apologized to its customers for the disruption.

It also said it plans to roll out a Domain Lock service to help prevent hijacking in future, though I doubt such a service would have prevented this specific incident.

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.

What the hell happened to Go Daddy last night?

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2012, Domain Registrars

Thousands — possibly millions — of Go Daddy customers suffered a four-hour outage last night, during a suspected distributed denial of service attack.

The company has not yet revealed the cause of the downtime, which started at 1725 UTC last night, but it bears many of the signs of DDoS against the company’s DNS servers.

During the incident, godaddy.com was inaccessible. DI hosts with Go Daddy; domainincite.com and secureserver.net, the domain Go Daddy uses to provide its email services, were both down.

The company issued the following statement:

At 10:25 am PT, GoDaddy.com and associated customer services experienced intermittent outages. Services began to be restored for the bulk of affected customers at 2:43 pm PT. At no time was any sensitive customer information, such as credit card data, passwords or names and addresses, compromised. We will provide an additional update within the next 24 hours. We want to thank our customers for their patience and support.

Several Go Daddy sites I checked remained accessible from some parts of the world initially, only to disappear later.

Others reported that they were able to load their Go Daddy webmail, but that no new emails were getting through.

This all points to a problem with Go Daddy’s DNS, rather than with its hosting infrastructure. People able to view affected sites were likely using cached copies of DNS records.

Close to 34 million domains use domaincontrol.com, Go Daddy’s primary name server, for their DNS. The company says it has over 10 million customers.

Reportedly, Go Daddy started using Verisign’s DNS for its home page during the event, which would also point to a DNS-based attack.

The outage was so widespread that the words “GoDaddy” and “DNS” quickly became trending topics on Twitter.

The web site downforeveryoneorjustme.com, which does not use Go Daddy, also went down as thousands of people rushed to check whether their web sites were affected.

Some outlets reported that Anonymous, the hacker group, had claimed credit for the attack via an anonymous (small a) Twitter account.

Companies the size of Go Daddy experience DDoS attacks on a daily basis, and they build their infrastructure with sufficient safeguards and redundancies to handle the extra traffic.

This leads me to believe that either yesterday’s attack was either especially enormous, or that somebody screwed up.

The fact that the company has not yet confirmed that external malicious forces were at work is worrying.

Either way it’s embarrassing for Go Daddy, which is applying for three new gTLDs which it plans to self-host.

Several reports have already speculated that the attack could be revenge for one or more of Go Daddy’s recent PR screw-ups.

The company has promised an update later today.