Tag Archives: Domain name

The Death of WorldCom

WorldCom, once the U.S.’ second largest long distance phone company before falling into bankruptcy and fraud convictions, is no more. At least, as a name. As Netcraft, a UK-based Internet monitoring and security company, records:

WorldCom.com has been taken offline, erasing the web’s last traces of the brand that became a symbol of white collar crime and the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The domains worldcom.com and worldcom.net have been taken out of the DNS database, meaning requests for those URLs return no response. The domains continue to be owned by MCI, Inc. the WorldCom successor that was bought earlier this year by Verizon for $7.6 billion.

When a company is acquired, its domain names are typically redirected to the web site of the acquiring company to capture potential customers searching for the old URL. Redirection services are freely provided by most registrars. But worldcom.com and worldcom.net have no A record listed in their DNS settings, suggesting the domains have been intentionally taken offline to “retire” the name.

The MCIWorldcom.com, however, takes you to http://euat-consumer.mci.com/ .

What Katie.com Did Next

Can someone be turfed off their domain by someone bigger?

The experience of Katie Jones, recent mother and owner of an online chat site in the UK, has been well documented elsewhere. (Katie.com is the name of a book about the ordeal of a teenager sexually molested by a man she met in an Internet chatroom. Katie Jones is nothing to do with the book, but has been the owner of the address katie.com since 1996.) Jones’ latest report on her website suggests that she is being unfairly pressured by the publishers of the book that carries her website’s name to donate the website to them. (It is not entirely clear in the posting as to whether the lawyer who contacted her was working on behalf of the author or the publisher, or both.) Anyway, if true, this does seem to take things too far.

I’m no lawyer, but one can’t help wondered how things would look were the roles reversed. If a big player owned the website address, would there not be large amounts of money changing hands by now? Or at least, would not the publishers have changed the name of the book, and not been trying to browbeat her into handing over the domain name?

For Jones herself, I can well imagine the discomfort caused by receiving hundreds of emails, either from individuals detailing their traumas in the mistaken belief they are talking to a fellow victim, or from folks abusing her. It’s nothing compared to what the Katie of the book endured, but that is not the point. It’s easy enough to say, ‘why don’t you just change your email address and drop the domain name?’ but why should she? Why should an individual be hounded from her sentimental slice of online real estate if she doesn’t want to?

I sought a comment from the lawyer linked to in Ms Jones’ latest posting, Parry Aftab, who is described in her online bio as ‘is one of the leading experts, worldwide, on cybercrime, Internet privacy and cyber-abuse issues’ as well as ‘being called “The Angel of the Internet” for her extensive work in Internet safety and cybercrime and abuse prevention around the world’.

Aftab had posted a message to her blog on Thursday saying she was working with Katie Tarbox, the author of the original book, and an organisation called WiredSafety to “help create a place where children who have been victimized by Internet sexual predators can go for help and support”. The program will be called Katie’s Place. A logo of the new, as yet unlaunched site, is prominently displayed at the top of the WiredSafety homepage. Aftab is executive director of WiredSafety, ‘the world’s largest Internet safety, help & education organization’.

Aftab declined to respond in detail to Jones’ account of the telephone conversation or the case, writing: “Katie Jones’ statements are either false or misleading. She obviously has an agenda. And I frankly don’t have the time or energy to be part of it.”

The Continuing Marvels Of Phishing

I continue to marvel at phishing attacks, and how they tweak themselves just enough to make you wonder hard about whether you can afford to ignore them.

Take this one for example. Simple text email, no fancy graphics. But the URL looks real enough, the text makes you wonder whether someone has tried to access your eBay account — causing you to think you should follow the link, just in case.

Dear eBay member,

Thank you for submitting your change of e-mail address request.
Instructions on completing the change have been sent to your new email address.
Once the process is completed, your eBay-related email will no longer be routed to
this email address.

Change of E-mail address request was made from:
IP Address: 201.188.117.10
ISP Host: cache-dtc-ae11.proxy.msn.com

If you or anyone with authorized access to your account did not make this change,
please go to review your sign ininformations:

          http://billing.request-ebay.com

***Do Not Reply To This E-Mail As You Will Not Receive A Response***

Thank you for using eBay!

eBay Account Management

Having SpoofStick and other similar anti-phishing tools won’t really help you here, because they’ll just show you’re visiting request-ebay.com, which could be real enough. Even checking the WHOIS information isn’t that helpful, since the information there is no more or less suspicious than registry information of other legitimate sites. Even the website itself, request-ebay.com, looks normal enough.

The only real clue is in the language, which doesn’t make a lot of sense (why would the change of email address be sent to your new email address for verification?) errors (‘sign ininformations’; no proper addressee ‘Dear eBay Member’; the email address being one I know is now in the hands of ‘Nigerian’ scammers), and in the fact that if you should actually visit the link, you’ll be asked, without further ado, to enter your credit card information.

What I’d like to know is: Why do registrars still allow these kind of domains to be registered, why is the site still active, and why don’t eBay do a better job of policing these kind of sites? Surely it’s not too hard to monitor these eBay-linked domain name registrations?

The Future Of Domain Names?

Interesting piece from The Register’s Kieren McCarthy on the changing nature of domain names. He points to the recent case of a guy renting out beef.com to allow People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to lead a very successful campaign on the BSE issue. In the future, individuals and companies may end up renting out domain names rather than selling them:

As anyone who follows the domain name market will tell you, the price of domains has recovered and is almost standing at pre-dotcom-bust figures. It makes sense then that some speculators may invest in an expensive domain and then lease it out to people in fixed-term contracts – just like the housing market. You need not sell the domain completely – you simply accept a long-term lease or even monthly rents, depending on the market and the domain.

The Register reckon this might redress some of the imbalance in the domain name market, pulling “God-like power over domains away from companies like VeriSign which have abused the market for long enough but are impossible to remove”.