Working alongside the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu), Nominet, the UK’s domain name registrar, is to pilot law enforcement landing pages that will display on domains that have been suspended because of criminal activity.
The new landing pages are designed to provide additional information for anybody visiting the suspended website who may have been affected by malicious activity conducted by its owners.
Visitors will also be directed to a secure website where they can access consumer advice and further education and guidance for potential victims. The content on this site has been developed in collaboration with Pipcu – referrals from which account for most .uk domain names suspended for criminal activity.
“Criminal activity is as unacceptable online as it is offline, and the sale of counterfeit goods continues to result in innocent victims of cyber crime as consumers are duped by increasingly sophisticated websites that are not all they seem to be,” said Eleanor Bradley, managing director of registry and public benefit at Nominet.
“Our new landing pages pilot seeks to provide real-time education and advice to those who may have been victims of criminal activity at the point they attempt to access the website in question. It is the latest step in our strong collaboration with UK law enforcement agencies and we will be monitoring the pages closely to determine the benefit for the public to ensure we can help as many people as possible to stay safe when shopping online.”
Weizmann Jacobs of Pipcu added: “We work closely with Nominet to disrupt criminals who try to operate in the .uk domain. These law enforcement landing pages, which include advice and guidance for the public, help us in protecting consumers from the dangers of counterfeit goods and protect their personal information when shopping online.”
Since 2014, 108,589 domains used for criminal activity have been taken out of action to keep the .uk namespace safe. The content of the new landing pages has been developed in collaboration with Pipcu to provide clear messaging for the benefit of the public.
Nominet hopes to extend the pilot to include the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency some time in 2021, and will report back on the impact of the scheme, and potential next steps, on its conclusion.
To date, the registrar has suspended more than 100,000 malicious domains in the course of its work, and has had a notably busy 2020 for fairly obvious reasons. At the height of the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring, it blocked or suspended the registration of about 1,700 .uk domain names relating to the coronavirus.
Among other things, it acted in relation to fraudulent domains peddling quack tests, vaccines and cures, and counterfeit or unsafe personal protective equipment.
Although malicious domains related to Covid-19 are still a live threat, in the closing months of the year it will also be dealing with an uptick in malicious online activity related to online shopping deals, which always spike in the run-up to the holidays. This year, in-demand goods that will inevitably be targeted by cyber scammers include the newly launched Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
Earlier this week, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre issued its own guidance on safe online shopping, which can be accessed online here.