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NPL to study hidden identities on the web

09 May 2012

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is conducting a study to examine the extent to which generic top-level domain names (such as .com or .org web addresses) involved in illegal or harmful internet activities are registered via Privacy or Proxy services - protecting their operators from detection by the authorities.

NPL was selected to carry out this work by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a worldwide not-for-profit public-benefit corporation which coordinates the internet's naming system and is dedicated to keeping the internet secure, stable and interoperable.

The study will help the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) and the ICANN community better understand how often cyber criminals obscure their identities using common methods such as Privacy/Proxy registration.

During the study, a collaborative team led by Richard Clayton will examine a variety of illegal or harmful internet activities, including phishing, malware distribution, money laundering, unlicensed pharmacies, typosquatting, child sexual abuse images, spam and cybersquatting. The team will then measure the percentage of domain names registered via Privacy/Proxy services, as well as those registered using stolen identities or with incorrect information.

NPL will then determine whether the use of such privacy services is more prevalent among domains involved in illegal or harmful activities than it is among those which are registered for entirely lawful purposes.

The results from the study are expected to be available in early 2013.

A presentation by Richard Clayton, entitled 'Evil on the internet', is available for viewing here.


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