Stopping the scams with landing pages

26th February 2021

Eleanor Bradley

Eleanor Bradley
MD Registry & Public Benefit

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), one of the many law enforcement agencies (LEAs) that Nominet works with to reduce criminality in the namespace, shared a sobering fact: a victim who is scammed is likely to be repeatedly targeted. A cyber criminal finds a vulnerability and exploits it mercilessly.

As the national registry, we have always been proactive in trying to reduce criminality in the namespace and protect users of the .UK Domain, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies (LEAs). We can now offer an additional tool, developed with our LEAs, that will help to raise awareness and empower internet users to protect themselves when online: landing pages.

In November 2020, Nominet became the first registry in the world to implement landing pages for domains that had been suspended for criminal activity. Instead of simply leaving the suspended page to show an error message – with no explanation as to why it won’t resolve – we started using it to share real-time advice and information for people who may have been a victim. Our first landing page was developed in conjunction with the City of London Police IP Crime Unit (PIPCU), with their specified content being shared on domain names suspended on their instruction.

New landing pages for three further LEAs are now going live, namely the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the FCA and the National Crime Agency (NCA). This comes during a critical time for the work of these agencies. The ongoing pandemic has seen a sharp rise in both medicines and financial fraud online due to the toxic combination of a fast-changing health situation and an increased amount of time spent on the internet, not to mention an environment of sustained anxiety and economic uncertainty; our LEAs tell us that financial difficulties often result in more scams being launched.

The MHRA reports that one in ten people have bought fake medicines online in the past year, while the FCA told us that they saw an increase of around 50% in reports about criminal activity during 2020, as compared to the previous year. This resulted in 232 requests for suspension being made to Nominet by the FCA. Users of the FCA’s informative Scamsmart page regularly say they could have invested over £10,000 with an unauthorised person if they hadn’t been given advice on what to watch out for. The criminal activities behind the 232 suspension could equate to over £10 million lost by vulnerable people who not only have to deal with the financial loss but also the psychological damage of knowing they have fallen victim to a scam.

Suspending the domain name is a key part of disrupting crime, but the other side of the coin is educating people on how to stay safe. This has become ever more important as cyber criminals are able to deliver increasingly sophisticated fraudulent sites that look remarkably authentic. We must do all we can to arm internet users with the knowledge on how to protect themselves and what to look out for. Landing pages are a means of doing that, in addition to the outreach work already undertaken by the LEAs.

We plan, in due course, to launch landing pages for all 13 of the LEAs Nominet currently works with, providing all with another means of accessing their ‘audience’ and protecting the vulnerable.

For Nominet, this is another way in which we can tackle criminality in the namespace and work transparently with our partners to keep the .UK Domain safe and secure. It’s great to see others in the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) community following a similar approach, with the Netherlands registry having now introduced landing pages of their own. This underscores the vital role registries can play to protect internet users worldwide and support law enforcement efforts globally to disrupt the criminals trying to take advantage of our lives online.

Find out more about the new landing pages on our news page.

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