Feeds

Nominet warns on Whois data mining

US firm caught harvesting personal information

Seven Steps to Software Security

Nominet has issued a warning about commercial companies that are swiping copyrighted information on domain name owners from its Whois database.

Several weeks ago, the UK internet registry owner noticed a sharp increase in the number of people accessing its Whois service, an online searchable database that provides ownership details for individual .uk internet addresses, including the name of the individual and sometimes their home address.

Nominet director of IT Jay Daley said in one 24-hour period there were an additional 50,000 look-ups appearing to come from 5,000 different internet addresses. Thanks to careful monitoring and analysis, however, Nominet was able to trace the source of the requests to a single company - US security company Intrusion.com.

Nominet blocked Intrusion.com and sent an email to the company requesting an explanation, but heard nothing back. A week later, it phoned the US firm and sent another email before finally speaking to its co-founder, vice-president and vice-chairman T Joe Head, who confirmed the company had been building a database of .uk domain ownership in order to help its products perform better.

According to Daley, Head claimed to have a database of 130m domain names across the world, with Whois data on 70m of them. When the company identifies a domain name that is being used for nefarious purposes it runs a search across its database for any other domains run or owned by the same organisation and reviews their status.

The company's use of the information is immaterial, however, as under European law the Whois database is the copyrighted property of Nominet.

Nominet is particularly sensitive about its database after Australian scammers tricked 50,000 Nominet customers into paying imaginary renewal fees when they were contacted through their Whois details, stolen from the Nominet website by an automated request program.

Brad Norrish and Chesley Rafferty were found guilty in January this year and fined AU$2.3m (£980,000) by an Australian court after a Nominet chase lasting nearly three years. Nominet has since provided all customers with the option to opt-out of providing anything but their name on the public Whois database, and carefully monitors access to the database.

According to Daley, Intrusion.com claimed it wasn't aware of the UK and European law that makes the database copyrighted material. It said its actions are perfectly possible as the law in the US, and extended to all global top-level domains including .com, .net, .org and so on, is that all details of domain owners - including home telephone numbers and email addresses - are made freely and publicly available.

Daley said he was keen to publicise the issue of database mining so commercial companies were aware of the law difference between the US and EU, and to make other countries' registries aware that their databases were probably also being stolen through sophisticated request techniques.

In a statement to The Register, Intrusion’s president and CEO, G Ward Paxton, said it had deleted any information on domain names registered by Nominet and while it investigates the “concerns over Intrusion’s use of the information”.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.