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Nominet names director hopefuls

Kevin Murphy, July 22, 2024, Domain Policy

Nominet has named the five people who have put themselves forward for two seats on its board of directors. While there are familiar faces, there are also notable absences.

Ashley La Bolle of Tucows is defending her non-executive director seat and standing for her second term, but fellow NED Simon Blackler, famously of the PublicBenefit.uk campaign, is not.

PublicBenefit.uk resulted in a boardroom bloodbath at Nominet in 2021 and a change of focus for the .uk registry under new management.

Jim Davies, who threatened legal action after being excluded from the 2023 election, is also not on the list.

Rex Wickham of TwentyTwentyMedia, who sits on Nominet’s .UK Registry Advisory Council, is also on the list, along with Rob Golding, who has previously stood unsuccessfully for a NED seat.

Thomas Mangin and David Ward, neither of whom I believe have been candidates in Nominet elections before, round off the list.

Candidates’ election statements appear to be available to members only.

Nominet members get to vote, weighted according to how many .uk domains they manage, from September 23, and the new NEDs take their seats at the company’s AGM the following month.

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Crowdstrike screw-up took down ICANN’s email

Kevin Murphy, July 22, 2024, Domain Tech

The domain name industry seemed to have dodged a bullet when it came to last Friday’s devastating worldwide computer outage, but it emerged over the weekend that at least one ear was grazed.

ICANN revealed late Friday that its email systems, hosted by an external provider, were affected by the bug, which saw millions of Windows endpoints bricked by a dodgy patch from security firm Crowdstrike.

At 2035 UTC, ICANN said: “ICANN is having email issues and we may not receive your email. ICANN’s external email vendor has been affected by today’s global IT outages”.

But by 0121 UTC Saturday, it reported: “ICANN’s email service has been restored and all email-dependent services have resumed.”

Given that ICANN often uses 2359 UTC as a cut-off point for things like public comment submissions, which are received via email, it’s easy to see how the lack of an inbox over that window could have caused some minor headaches on a different day.

I’m not aware of reports of any serious incidents in the wider domain space caused by the Crowdstrike bug. DNS resolution services do not typically rely upon the uninterrupted availability of Windows endpoints.

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We grassed up .TOP, says free abuse outfit

Kevin Murphy, July 18, 2024, Domain Services

A community-run URL “blacklist” project has claimed credit for the complaints that led to .TOP Registry getting hit by an ICANN Compliance action earlier this week.

.TOP was told on Tuesday that it has a month to sort of its abuse-handing procedures or risk losing the .top gTLD, which has over three million domains.

ICANN said the company had failed to respond to an unspecified complainant that had reported multiple phishing attacks, and now the source of that complaint has revealed itself in a news release.

URLAbuse says it was the party that reported the attacks to .TOP, which according to ICANN happened in mid April.

“Despite repeated notifications, the .TOP Registry Operator failed to address these issues, prompting URLAbuse to escalate the matter to ICANN,” URLAbuse said, providing a screenshot of ICANN’s response.

URLAbuse provides a free abuse blocklist that anyone is free to incorporate into their security setup. Domain industry partners include Radix, XYZ.com and Namecheap.

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ICANN to earmark $10 million for new gTLD subsidies

Kevin Murphy, July 18, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN is planning to give $5 million of its auctions war-chest to new gTLD applicants from less well-off nations and wants community feedback on the idea.

The Org is sitting on over $200 million raised by auctioning gTLDs from the 2012 application round, and thinks some of it could be well-spent on subsidizing applicants in the next round.

It wants to create a $10 million fund for the Applicant Support Program, half of which will come from the auction proceeds and half of which will be covered by the existing program budget.

ICANN says this will be enough to provide “meaningful support for up to 45 new gTLD applicants”.

The auction funds have previously been used to replenish ICANN’s reserve and to launch the new Grant Program, which is making $10 million available with year to worthy, on-topic projects.

Clearly, at that rate, the Grant Program may well never exhaust the auction fund, given the likelihood of future auctions and investment gains over the next couple of decades.

The Applicant Support Program will be open to non-profit or small business applicants in most of the world’s territories, as I previously blogged. In the 2012 round, three applicants applied but only one received the discount.

The request to divert some of the cash into the ASP is not subject to a regular public comment process. Rather, ICANN’s community groups have been asked to send their thoughts to the board directly before August 12.

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TV network rebrands on single-letter domain

Kevin Murphy, July 17, 2024, Domain Sales

UKTV, the company that runs a number of basic cable TV stations in the UK, has rebranded itself as U, and is now using u.co.uk as its primary destination domain.

Its channels have been rebranded to the domain-resistant U&Dave, U&W, U&DRAMA and U&YESTERDAY. The “masterbrand” U will be used for its streaming services.

The domain u.co.uk was released back in 2011 as part of Nominet’s release of one and two-character domains. It was claimed as a trademark by multiple parties and was auctioned for a likely four-figure sum.

The winning bidder in 2011, Ubrands, doesn’t seem to have ever used the domain, and it’s not clear how much U paid for it this time it changed hands.

The matching second-level, u.uk, is owned by a domain investment company and has a BIN price of £500,000 on its landing page.

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First registry gets breach notice over new abuse rules

.TOP Registry allegedly ignored reports about phishing attacks and has become the first ICANN contracted party to get put on the naughty step over DNS abuse rules that came into effect a few months ago.

ICANN has issued a public breach notice claiming that the registry, which runs .top, has also been ignoring the results of Uniform Rapid Suspension cases, enabling cybersquatting to take place.

The notice says that .TOP breached new rules, which came into effect April 5, that require it to act on reports of DNS abuse (such as malware or phishing attacks) by suspending the domains or referring them to the responsible registrar.

The registry didn’t do this with respect to a report of April 18, concerning “multiple .top domain names allegedly used to conduct phishing attacks”. It didn’t even read the report until contacted by ICANN, according to the notice.

As of yesterday, only 33% of the phishing domains have been suspended by their registrars, some three months after the attacks were reported, ICANN says.

Compliance is also concerned that .TOP seems to be ignoring notices from Forum, the company that processes URS cases, requiring domains to be locked within 24 hours when they’ve been hit with a charge of cybersquatting.

The registry “blatantly and repeatedly violated” these rules, according to ICANN.

.TOP has been given until August 15 to get its act together or risk having its Registry Agreement suspended or terminated.

The registry has about three million .top domains under management, having long been one of the most successful new gTLDs of the 2012 round in volume terms. It typically sells domains very cheaply, which of course attracts bad actors.

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Americans and ICANNers avoid Kigali in droves

Kevin Murphy, July 15, 2024, Domain Policy

The number of North Americans and ICANN staffers turning up to the latest community meeting hit their lowest numbers since records began, according to newly published ICANN statistics.

In-person attendance plummeted compared to the same meeting last year, and the total number of North Americans collecting lanyards was the lowest since ICANN started tracking these things in 2016.

The number of staffers showing up to ICANN 80 in Kigali, Rwanda last month also tied as the lowest-ever turnout for Org employees.

There were 214 North Americans at Kigali, compared to 612 at the Washington DC meeting a year earlier and 262 at the meeting in The Hague in 2022, which was the first post-pandemic non-virtual meeting.

The previous low was 310, at the ICANN 65 meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.

It’s probably no surprise that many regular attendees stayed away. The shorter, mid-year Policy Forum meetings typically see the lowest in-person participation, and that’s particularly noticeable when the rotation has them held in Africa.

Flight web sites I checked show no direct flights from the US to Kigali. A connection at a European hub is required and you’re realistically looking at over 24 hours of travel time. Asian community members have it a little easier, with connecting hubs available in the Middle East.

For ICANN, the lower number of staff being sent may be indicative of the Org’s latest belt-tightening moves, which recently saw a number of staff laid off.

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RDRS stats improve a little in June

Kevin Murphy, July 15, 2024, Domain Services

ICANN’s Registration Data Request Service saw a small improvement in usage and response times in June, but it did lose a registrar, according to statistics published today.

There were 170 requests for private Whois data in the month, up a little from May’s historic low of 153, and 20.88% were approved, compared to 20.29% in May.

The mean average response time for an approved request was down to 6.59 days, from 11.34 days in May and April’s huge 14.09 days. Since the RDRS project began last November, the median response time is two days.

Smaller registrar OwnRegistrar opted out of the program during the month, but the coverage in percentage terms held steady at 59%, with 90 registrars of various sizes still participating.

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Unstoppable Domains goes down after domain hijack

Kevin Murphy, July 12, 2024, Domain Tech

Unstoppable Domains, operator of the blockchain-based alternative naming system, has had its domain hijacked and is warning customers to be wary of further scams and attacks.

“Unstoppabledomains.com has been subject to an attack. Do NOT open emails from @unstoppabledomains.com or use the website until further notice,” the company tweeted on Twitter.

Company founder Matthew Gould suggested in a tweet that the company’s registrar account, at SquareSpace, has been compromised. He said he suspected it may be related to SquareSpace’s acquisition of Google Domains.

He said the attackers are already sending out “fake emails” and that he expects them to set up a fake web site at the .com domain. It does not currently resolve from where I’m sitting.

The Whois record shows that the domain was updated shortly after 0200 UTC today and then again just a few minutes ago.

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Four more gTLDs in emergency measures

ICANN has thrown four more gTLDs into the Emergency Back-End Registry Operator program, presumably as a prelude to terminating their registry’s contracts in a few weeks.

Asia Green IT System’s .pars, .shia, .tci and .همراه (.xn--mgbt3dhd) are all going EBERO, meaning Nominet will take over their operation on ICANN’s behalf.

Not that they need much operation, given that all four, which all connect in some way to Iran and Iranian culture, were unlaunched and dormant, with no third-party registrations.

The four TLDs, along with AGIT’s .nowruz, which went into EBERO last week, had been running on CoCCA’s back-end, but it sounds rather like the registry forgot to pay its bills, causing CoCCA to disable its services.

That led to functions such as Whois going offline, triggering a breach of the ICANN Registry Agreement. A day of Whois downtime in one week gives ICANN grounds to get Nominet involved and move towards termination.

A breach notice issued a couple weeks ago gave AGIT until the end of the month to come back into compliance or risk termination. That escalation now appears inevitable.

AGIT almost got to run .islam and .halal, but had its applications rejected after protests from governments of Muslim-majority country. Somehow, .shia did not receive the same outcry.

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