The Cybersecurity 202: Internet domain names are ripe for scam during coronavirus crisisSeptember 8, 2020
Researchers at the Internet safety nonprofit say that between May and July, they were easily able to purchase coronavirus-related domains such as Getcoronavirusvaccines.com, freecoronavaccine.net and Bleachcoronaviruscure.com. from registrars including GoDaddy, Domain.com and Google Domains. There is no available government-approved vaccine for the coronavirus.
When asked about the Digital Citizens findings and about a number of suspensions of fraudulent coronavirus domains, GoDaddy referred The Washington Post to a blog post from March.
Google prohibits using domains for illegal or unlawful purposes, Google spokesperson Alex Krasov said.
“We regularly scan registrations using account signals and review all reports of possible abuse,” Krasov said. “If we find that a domain name registered through Google Domains violates our Terms of Service, we may suspend, cancel or terminate the domain and associated account.”
Digital Citizens researchers also were able to purchase domains that could be used for scams from resellers who make a profit by acquiring already-registered domain names.
In one instance, an agent for the site DomainAgents offered to broker the sale of the domain name coronavaccine.com to Digital Citizens researchers even after the researchers made it clear they wanted the domain to sell a non-existent cure.
“We represent neither the buyer or the seller and it is unusual for a buyer to share their intended use of a domain,” DomainAgents chief executive Ryan McKegney wrote in an email to The Post. McKegney said the company forbids the use of its service to obtain domains for illegal uses like fraud.
“Covid hadn’t been on our list of exclusions, but with the amount of misinformation that is floating around, the point is taken and we will train our Customer Service Representatives to watch for it and exclude the purchase of covid-related terms going forward.”
Domains found by Digital Citizens researchers are just a fraction of those registered since the start of the pandemic that are ripe for scam.
Researchers at Check Point found that since the beginning of the year, at least 114,219 new virus-themed domains have been registered, over half of which were registered by GoDaddy. While not all the domain names are fraudulent, Check Point researchers noted in March coronavirus-related domains were 50 percent more likely to be malicious than other domains registered in that time.
“Domain name registrars should not allow cybercriminals and online scammers to register provocative domain names used to lure people to their sites,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said in response to the Digital Citizens report. “Too many of these companies put their heads in the sand while criminals use their services to prey on the public, even when criminal intent is clear in the domain name itself. Domain name registrars need to take responsibility and stop enabling scams perpetrated on the public.”
Online coronavirus-themed scams have…