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Why Spamcop got yanked

Joker.com hiccup

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Anyone who tried reporting spam to the popular Spamcop service this weekend got a nasty surprise. The site had bizarrely disappeared. And no, it wasn't a server outage.

Joker.com, the German service that registered the Spamcop.net domain name, decided to yank the Spamcop.net domain name from its database, citing false Whois information.

The Whois database records the contact information for each registered domain in the DNS, the data query service used for translating hostnames into internet addresses.

On October 15, Spamcop.net owner Julian Haight received an email from Joker.com, which claimed that "the address-record of the owner of this domain is incomplete or wrong".

Haight discovered that only thing wrong about the record was a disconnected phone number. He corrected the number using Joker's own web-admin interface and figured that would be the end of it. Not for Joker.com. The registrar pulled the plug on Spamcop.net last Friday (October 31).

"It appears that a false complaint can spur a process, whereby the owner of the domain must fax a signed response or face termination of service," Haight writes. 'It should be noted that the original complaint (about the incorrect phone number - The Reg) was false and presumably malicious in nature - a human-engineered denial of service attack.'

Joker.com corrected the mistake and from today (Monday) Spamcop is alive and kicking again.

The interesting thing is that Whois records are chockful with incorrect details. Spammers frequently register domain names using bogus zip codes, real-looking phone numbers that turn out to be nonexistent or disconnected; and countless email addresses that bounce. Joker.com's databases are no exception.

In September, the Bush administration ordered The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to improve the "accuracy of Whois data." However, not much has happened. Registrars only seem to respond to complaints, even incorrect ones, and do very little checking themselves. ®

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