ICANN domain name move would lead to massive fraud: Experts

23 Jun 2011


Hailed as the biggest internet shake-up since .com's 1984 entry, the freeing up of domain names may also open the floodgates to cybersquatting and online fraud on a scale not seen before, say analysts.
This May, iPhone-maker Apple bought back the iCloud.com domain for around $4.5 million (over Rs20 crore) before the much-publicised unveiling of the service, and in the same month rival Amazon bought domain names A.Co, Z.Co, K.Co, and Cloud.Co from a Colombia-based domain registry firm .Co for an undisclosed amount.

Analysts say if corporate houses would be required to contend with infinite variations of their names and trademarks on the internet as well, the confusion could well be imagined.

According to experts, this may lead to revival of issues of patent and trademark with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - the body governing internet domain names - allowing all kinds of net suffixes alongside the popular ones like .com and .net.

Companies and community groups can now also create their own names after the dot but mid-level companies may not be able to protect domain names.

Currently, there are 22 generic top-level domain names, including popular ones like .com and .net with another 225 country domains like .us, .uk and .in. The future according to experts, holds mind-boggling options.
Experts say companies, especially midscale ones, would not be able to protect all domain names and some bit of it would be registered by others. This, they add, may be because the possible combinations of an entity's name may run into thousands and with the steep price of application of $1,85,000 (over Rs80 lakh), not many medium sized companies would be able to afford it.

However, they expect all big corporations to make aggressive moves to secure all related domain names.

A decade ago, when 'dotcom' burst on the scene, a number of popular names such as Tata were grabbed by inter-net opportunists. The Tata group had to take legal steps to evict a squatter from 10 contested domain names, including ratantata-.com and tatapowerco.com.

According to experts, the further freeing up of internet domains could be expected to lead to a lot of litigation in a replay of what happened at the time of the dot.com surge.

Phishing remains another major issue. Experts say there are very legitimate concerns over cyber criminals seeking these new domain names to create legitimate looking websites using well-known brand names. They add these could then be used for launching phishing attacks or delivery of Trojan malware.

They say the fact that medium-sized firms may not be able to buy related domain names might result in more phishing against them, and financial firms may be convenient targets.

Experts also point out that the ICANN move could also increase confusion among consumers with searches throwing up results not entirely relevant and indexing the new breed of sites might be difficult.

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