New York Attorney General Laetitia James open letters the six largest domain registrars with a request to take measures that complicate the registration of domains associated with COVID-19 and coronavirus. The letters were sent to representatives of GoDaddy, Dynadot, Name.com, Namecheap, Register.com, as well as Endurance International Group (owner of Bluehost.com, Domain.com and HostGator.com).
Let me remind you that information security experts from all over the world really note a huge surge in fraudulent activity related to COVID-19. For example, RiskIQ analysts reported that in just one day, March 15, 2020, they discovered 13,500 suspicious domains associated with coronavirus. The next day, another 35,000 suspicious domains were discovered, and more than 17,000 domains in two days. Basically, such sites distribute malware or engage in open fraud: sell non-existent vaccines, drugs, tests for coranavirus and so on.
James encouraged registrars to take the following countermeasures:
- Automatically and manually check all recently registered domain names associated with the coronavirus;
- create a special channel for authorities and the public through which it will be possible to report fraudsters parasitizing in a pandemic;
- unregister all domain names already registered by fraudsters;
- deploy systems to stop the registration of domains associated with coronavirus;
- deploy systems to block the quick registration of domains associated with coronavirus;
- update the terms of service by adding paragraphs about “tough law enforcement measures” that would follow in the event of the illegal use of such domains.
Journalists of the publication Zdnet received comments from representatives of three of the six companies listed above. The head of Namecheap assured that the company is already working with the authorities to "actively prevent and close any fraudulent or abusive domains and sites associated with COVID-19 and coronavirus." In addition, the registrar forbade the use of these words in the tool to search for free domain names in order to prevent further registration of such domains.
GoDaddy and Endurance, in turn, said they would continue to rely on existing abuse reporting mechanisms. The companies were assured that they already have effective processes and procedures for investigating and promptly responding to notifications of illegal customer activity, including alleged fraud.
Now the question is how quickly domain registrars will respond to abuse reports. For example, according to research In 2018, hosters usually need three days to close a site that violates the rules.
It is also worth mentioning that earlier this week Europol announced that police from more than 90 countries came together to conduct “Operations of Pangea »designed to stop the growing flow of COVID-19 fraud.
The operation was coordinated by Interpol, and one of its stages took place from March 3 to 10, 2020. Law enforcement officers from 90 countries eliminated 37 criminal groups and made 121 arrests. In total, they confiscated potentially dangerous medicines worth 13 million euros (most were painkillers and antibiotics, which were tricked into panicking consumers because of coronavirus). In addition, law enforcement authorities seized about 34,000 fake surgical masks that did not meet the required standards, as well as fake kits for HIV self-testing and glucose testing.
Large online retailers are trying to combat price gouging and fraud on their own and block the distribution of products that claim to be the prevention or treatment of coronavirus. For example, in recent weeks, Amazon has discontinued at least one million of these goods, and currently two people in the USA are under investigation: They bought nearly 18,000 hand sanitizers from Dollar Tree, Walmart, Staples, and Home Depot and tried to sell them at Amazon at overpriced prices.