Govt: Fake Web Site Registrations Churn Online Fraud
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday that points to a serious problem that is contributing to the proliferation of fraudulent phishing and scam Web sites -- the relative lack of any real policing by the domain-name registrars of the data people must submit to register a new Web site.
GAO estimated that 2.31 million domain names (or slightly more than 5 percent of all currently registered Web site names in the .com, .net, and .org top level domains) have been registered with false data. The agency found another 1.64 million domains that were registered with incomplete data.
GAO said it selected a random sample of 300 domain names from each of the three top level domains and performed record look-ups to obtain contact information for each domain name. Of the 45 error reports the agency submitted to ICANN (the group charged with overseeing the domain name space) for further investigation-- only about one-quarter were updated with accurate information. Nearly half of those domains were associated with Web search portals and adult content, among other categories, GAO said.
The GAO report concluded that while several tools are available to ICANN and the domain name registries and registrars to better police this space, none are widely implemented.
My gut says GAO's estimates probably low-ball the true number of domains registered with false information. I say this because I've investigated dozens of phishing sites, only to find that they were registered to real people whose information and credit card data had been stolen. My guess is that the study had no way of determining these types of registrations, so it did not include them. I wrote about just such an experience before in a previous post on a phishing scam targeting MasterCard users.
This is most certainly a difficult problem to fix, but ICANN and the many companies that help people register domain names could do everyone a great service if they got better at demanding accurate registration information. Yes, there are privacy and security issues involved in some cases, but most registrars offer some type of service that allows people to keep their contact information hidden from most queries, albeit usually for a fee.
December 8, 2005; 11:55 AM ET
Categories: From the Bunker
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