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New your.brand domain names to increase phishing?


ICANN has just approved a new batch of individualized TLD’s (Top Level Domains), so now you can register your.brand, whatever yourbrand is, instead of the usual, .net, etc., if you can prove to ICANN you deserve it. The problem? Users tricked by similar looking domain names have long been a boon for phishing exploits, will this add to the mix?

Before you run out and register .mcdonalds, rest assured the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) won’t allow it, and neither will McDonalds. This type of shenanigans was played out years ago when enterprising individuals registered things like, hoping to convince deep pockets to write them a check for it when he decided they wanted it. While some uninitiated businesses did, many used other means of “persuasion” to compel the original registrant to relinquish it, not netting the windfall originally planned. This time it’s different. You want .burgerking? It’ll set you back $185,000.00 to get it from ICANN. That’s right, a TLD registration price that has a comma in it. Also, you’ll have to prove you have legitimate use of the name.

ICANN claims the steep registration costs are in place to offset the top level DNS administration necessary for this new naming scheme, and to provide a high barrier of entry for would-be registrants to avoid a flood of pseudo-legitimate requests. Others claim it’s a cash grab, I mean come on, $185,000 buys a lot of DNS server administration and bandwidth. Plus, you’ll be on the hook for an annual fee of $25,000 to keep the servers at ICANN for your domain name humming smoothly.

But let’s say you can’t find the $185K in your budget, what to do? If smaller groups in allied industries were to form a consortium and register, say, .bank, they could all make use of the TLD by chipping in on the cost. While this may be able to “brand” smaller industries, the confusion comes in small firms’ smaller (and slower) efforts at adequately educating customers what the new name is. When there is this kind of change, expect phishing fraudsters to be on high alert, tricking customer to go to specially crafted sites that steal information. If a user got an e-mail saying to visit and accidentally visited, they might end up in very different places, playing into the hands of phishing efforts.

The new changes will be in effect starting in January 2012, so there’s still time to see how this may shape up, but some feel it’s the most profound change to happen to domains in years, we’ll see.

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