Skip the navigation

U.S., U.K. officials seek stricter domain name rules

By Jeremy Kirk
March 17, 2010 11:27 AM ET

IDG News Service - Law enforcement officials in the U.K. and U.S. are pushing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to put in place measures that would help reduce abuse of the domain name system.

Now it is "ridiculously easy" to register a domain name under false details, said Paul Hoare, senior manager and head of e-crime operations for the U.K.'s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Domain names can be used for all kinds of criminal activity, ranging from phishing to trademark abuse to facilitating botnets. Law enforcement often run into difficulty when investigating those domains, as criminals use false details and stolen credit cards.

The FBI and SOCA have submitted a set of recommendations to ICANN for how it could strengthen Registration Accreditation Agreements (RAAs). The agreement is a set of terms and conditions that a registrar -- an entity that can accept domain name registrations -- would be subject to in order to run their business. ICANN's RAA applies to registrars for generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as ".com."

The ideas from the FBI and SOCA have not been publicly revealed but include stronger verification of registrants' name, address, phone number, e-mail address and stronger checks on how they pay for a domain name, Hoare said.

Those financial checks are already done for e-commerce transactions, so "there's no reason why the registries and domain registrars can't do the same thing," Hoare said. Many registrars and registries already do this, he said.

Such a system doesn't not mean false details won't still be found in WHOIS, the directory listing for who owns a domain name. However, "it means criminals have to do some more work to register," Hoare said.

The movement underscores long-running concerns about WHOIS. An ICANN-commissioned study released last month of 1,419 gTLDs found that only 23 percent of the WHOIS records were fully accurate. The current highly automated system "allow criminals to register domain names anonymously," Hoare said.

Some registries already have strong rules for their registrars. Nominet, which administers the country-code ".uk" domain names, doesn't allow the use of privacy services for domain name registrants, although it does allow registrants to mask their real address from the WHOIS, said Nick Wenban-Smith, senior legal counsel.

Nominet is different from other registries. It is a country-code registry and is autonomous from ICANN. Its registrars don't have be accredited by ICANN but by Nominet, which has a different RAA.

Nominet requires its registrars to obtain accurate information. Nominet is also what's known as a "thick" registry in that it also keeps all of information around domain name registrations collected by its registrars, which also helps for law enforcement and verification purposes, Wenban-Smith said. "Thin" registries don't keep that information, which is held by their registrars.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
Our Commenting Policies