Nominet, responsible for running and keeping the .UK internet infrastructure secure, has today published its update on .UK domains suspended for criminal activity over the 12 months to 31 October 2022.
When alerted by law enforcement agencies, Nominet works quickly with registrars to suspend domains that are being used for criminal activities.
In addition to the work directly with law enforcement, the report also outlines the steps Nominet takes to tackle abuse in the .UK namespace. Nominet’s anti-phishing initiative, Domain Watch, further increases the safety of the .UK namespace. Using machine learning, it flags potentially malicious domains at the point of registration and puts these on hold while Nominet’s in-house compliance team works with the registrant and registrar to determine if they are for legitimate use.
The use of third-party threat feeds has been significantly ramped up in 2022 – leveraging this information enables Nominet to proactively work with registrars to act on potential criminal activity using existing domains.
Key statistics from the report:
- Suspensions at an all-time low: 2,106 domains were suspended for criminal activity in 2022, down from in the previous year – a reduction of 49%.
- Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) crack down on counterfeiting: Within the last two years, PIPCU has mapped organised crime groups specifically targeting consumers on the internet relating to counterfeit goods and fraud. Domains were investigated, and when satisfied they were used for criminal purposes, suspensions were made. Fewer criminals are using the .UK registry for counterfeiting purposes due to this focused approach with PIPCU reporting just 1,083 domains.
- Landing pages: In 2020, Nominet launched a Landing Page Pilot for domains that have been suspended for criminal activity. This directs consumers to a secure landing page providing real-time consumer advice and information. In 2022, 53 requests for landing pages were made with 54 domains directed to landing pages.
- New health scams hit the market: While still low at 25 suspensions in 2022, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) saw an increase this year – with suspensions relating to steroids and other unlicensed products.
- Using threat feeds: This year, Nominet has expanded its efforts to tackle abuse on .UK. Using threat feed data from third-party providers, 1108 domains were suspended for malware distribution, fake web shops, command and control or cryptocurrency scams.
- Covid-19 scams are dwindling: Domains with Covid-related terms are seen as less successful threat vectors, as the country emerges from the pandemic. The number of Covid-related suspensions this period was down to 612, from 1581 in the previous year.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Robinson, from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, said:
“The website domains that we suspend in partnership with Nominet often purport to sell products from well-known brands. The reality is that the items sold are often low quality and potentially dangerous imitations, while the profits and customer data collected through these websites can help fund organised criminal groups.
“The reduction in the number of .UK domains reported by PIPCU in 2022 illustrates the positive impact that our partnership with Nominet has had in making this domain space a difficult place for organised crime groups to operate, and a safer environment for consumers.”
Eleanor Bradley, MD of Registry and Public Benefit at Nominet commented:
“These latest figures are testament to the work of the UK’s law enforcement agencies, and our joint efforts to disrupt criminals who try to operate in the .UK domain. As proud guardians of the .UK namespace, it’s vital that we maintain its safety, stability, and security, and it’s positive to see the measures we have in place contributing to making .UK one of the safest places to be online.”
To understand more about Nominet’s collaboration with UK law enforcement, read our Criminal Practices Policy, available at www.nominet.uk/policies
Nominet is driven by a commitment to use technology to improve connectivity, security and inclusivity online. For 25 years, Nominet has run the .UK internet infrastructure, developing an expertise in the Domain Name System (DNS) that now underpins sophisticated threat monitoring, detection, prevention and analytics that is used by governments to mitigate cyber threats. Our social impact programme provides support and opportunities to tackle some of the most important digital issues facing young people in the UK today.
Samantha Curtis, Nominet: [email protected]