The UK’s domain name registrar Nominet, which manages the .uk TLD, is taking action to prevent scammers and hackers from registering coronavirus-related domains.
Instead of taking down these domains after they’ve been reported as malicious, the organization is carefully scrutinizing any new website names that contain “coronavirus”, “covid” or any other terms related to the ongoing pandemic.
Only after Nominet has established that a coronavirus-related website is legitimate will its domain name be able to be resolved. Managing director of registry services at Nominet, Eleanor Bradley explained to ZDNet that around 600 names have been suspended so far, saying:
“We don’t want to prevent legitimate registration from getting through, but I think the current situation warrants further checks at the point of registration. What we’re doing is catching everything that has a clear relationship to coronavirus at source, to effectively stop malicious domains from being used in the first place.”
Nominet already employs the same methods it’s using to detect coronavirus-related domains to search for other scams online. For instance, the organization flags domain registration linked to banking and tax filing to limit the activity of fraudulent websites before the public can even see them.
Nominet’s algorithms are able to pick out attempts to register domains that contain key words and risk-rate them. These domains are then reviewed by actual people who assess the website’s profile and get in touch with the party who registered it to request for more information if necessary.
According to Bradley, many coronavirus-related domains are created for legitimate purposes such as communication between community groups. However, the recent spike in scams as a result of the global pandemic has led the organization to suspend some domains at the point of registration in an effort to protect the general public online. Bradley also provided more details on how Nominet is handling the current situation, saying:
“What we’re trying to do in the current situation is act really quickly so those names don’t go into use for purposes that could prove harmful to the general public. The domains that are perfectly acceptable should be registered really quickly, but we are just making sure that we are filtering out things that could cause harm.”