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Domain names and covid

In response to the pandemic, Nominet which looks after .uk domain names has stepped up checks on new domain registrations to mitigate against fraud related to Covid-19. To October 28, Nominet had placed 3,811 domains related to Covid-19 on hold at the point of registration pending further registrant checks. Some 1,568 of these domains have now passed due diligence and are now registered in the namespace. Eight domains suspended for criminal activity were related to Covid-19.

Russell Haworth, Nominet’s CEO said: “New anxieties are a bounty for cyber criminals who look to take advantage of others online for their own gains, not least by exploiting the pandemic. This year, we proactively sought to weed out coronavirus-related domains registered for criminal intent and had put on hold almost 4,000 by the end of October. With less than half passing the due diligence we require to reinstate them, it’s clearly helping keep scams at bay.

“This work complements our ongoing collaboration with law enforcement. The overall drop in suspensions they requested is driven by fewer PIPCU referrals, which suggests that their work to stop counterfeit goods reaching .UK domains is having an effect. Criminal groups are also starting to realise .UK domains used for scams will be suspended promptly. While that’s good news, we remain focused on playing our part to take swift action when alerted to any criminality in the namespace.”

Domain Watch – Nominet’s anti-phishing initiative that suspends suspicious domains at the point of registration – saw 5,006 domains suspended, almost double the number of suspensions year on year (2,668). When identified as high risk of phishing, domains will not be usable until extra diligence is conducted to satisfy us the registration does not pose a phishing risk. If a domain is suspended, the registrant will receive an email informing them what has happened, together with the next steps required if they feel the suspension was not correctly applied. Of these, 558 (up from 274) successfully passed our additional due diligence and completed the registration process.

Detective Inspector Joanne Ferguson, of the City of London Police’s Cyber Prevention & Disruption Team of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said: “Our main goal is to make the UK a hostile environment for fraud, and working together with Nominet is one of the key ways we can achieve this. Our partnership allows us to disrupt criminals by identifying domains being used in fraud and taking action to stop further people falling victim.

“It also allows us to prevent fraud from happening in the first place by predicting opportunities for criminals and working with Nominet to suspend domains before they are even used. A recent example of this is the work we did with Nominet around coronavirus-related fraud where we blocked the registration of unofficial domains linked to COVID-19. Protecting the public is our number one priority and we would like to thank Nominet for their continued support in helping us do this.”

The number of .UK domains suspended after requests by law enforcement between November 2019 and October 31, 2020 was 22,158 – that’s around 0.22 per cent of the ten million .UK domains currently registered. The number is down from 28,937 in the previous report.


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