Did Someone Steal Your Domain Name? - Shady Business
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One of the reasons ICANN is concerned about this alleged practice is that it “portrays an unfavorable image of the parties associated with the domain name registration process in specific, and of the domain name community in general.” Part of this image may have to do with the methods involved in domain name front running. Practitioners must have information, and there are a number of unsavory techniques that SSAC believes they may be using to get it.
One of these techniques is simple client software: “Free- and shareware WHOIS client applications, Browser Help Objects (BHOs), extensions, plug-ins and cookies…can be programmed to record WHOIS queries, domain name queries…and relay these over covert connections…to the software developer or affiliated 3rd party of the developer,” according to the SSAC report. Some of these can be considered to be a form of spyware.
An uglier method involves viruses. “Email-delivered worms infect hundreds if not thousands of client computers daily…Trojan software can be programmed to collect URLs, DNS activity or keystrokes.” The SSAC report notes that it’s not just individually-owned computers that suffer from infections, and “inadequately secured DNS, web and other application servers may also be compromised by attackers,” who then install software to monitor DNS, WHOIS and other system and user activities.
Registrars, resellers, and registries can make lists of names that are checked but don’t resolve. They can either use these names themselves or sell them to domain name front runners.
And then there’s one of the classic forms of hacking: social engineering. “An employee may unintentionally or prematurely reveal a service mark, television or movie title, or product slogan his company intends to register as a domain name during a conversation in a public area, and a passer-by might speculatively register the name,” the SSAC report notes.
The SSAC didn’t say that these practices were actually happening; however, the committee believes they present “plausible opportunities” for domain name front runners to discover potentially profitable URLs. Nor are these the only practices they cited.
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