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ICANN investigates domain name sharp practice

Insider dealing probe launched

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Internet oversight agency ICANN has launched an investigation into the possibility that insider information is being used to snap up desirable domain names before the person or organisation likely to be interested in them has had a chance to buy.

ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee is looking into suspicions that someone with access to search requests has been using this data to snap up potentially desirable domains, a process dubbed domain name front running.

Unlike traditional domain speculation, those who buy searched-for domains can be pretty sure of a potential interest when they attempt to sell their domains at a profit.

Suspicions that the sharp practice is happening have not yet been proven, but are fuelled by user experiences suggesting something is amiss. Many people who check to see if a domain is available reportedly find it's been bought by the time they return a short time later.

ICANN said the perception of sharp practice damages trust and tarnishes the image of the domain name registration industry. It said it was launching an inquiry to prevent this "perception from evolving to accepted wisdom", Reuters reports.

The committee is searching for evidence on whether or not domain fronting is happening. It will also, assuming it does find evidence of insider dealing, consider what policies and measures might be introduced to curtail the practice.

Possible mechanisms of the attack are speculated to include the use of data from unscrupulous third-party sites used to check domain name availability, or some form of data-harvesting malware. ®

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