Aftertaste - The domain tasting era has quietened to a whisper

Filed Under: Malware, Spam

On Thursday a report was released by ICANN supplying data that implies the practice of domain tasting has come to an end.

The traditional definition of domain tasting is the practice of purchasing a domain for the purpose of hosting some advertisements, or other marketing purposes, and returning it within five days to the domain registry to not have to purchase it.

Many typo-squatters were using this to register domains that are very close to popular domains and using it for parked ads to generate revenue at almost no cost.

If you're not an anti-spam researcher then you may not know that domain tasting was also used by cybercriminals who registered names in bulk, and then used them for fake Canadian pharmacy scams, Nigerian 419 scams and other spam campaigns.

Of course, once they had made their money they returned their purchased domain names for a full refund within the five day grace period.

Canadian Pharmacy website

In 2005 godaddy.com reported that 33 million out of 35 million total registrations they received were returned during the first five days.

This was a big issue. Spammer's know that most people are most likely to click spammed links within the five days making it a free method for them to try to evade URI filtering in email security solutions. By registering thousands of domains, hosting them on one fake Viagra page and rotating through the domains as they spam, it was an effective technique at evading anti-spam filters.

Industry and government worked together to identify how this problem could be solved, resulting in a series of wins over the last 12 months. I believe we're seeing progress which will benefit all of us.

Firstly we saw some ISPs being shutdown (Atrivo/Intercage and McColo), followed by the termination of the domain registration services run by EstDomains. And as recently as June, 3FN.net was taken down.

Now, ICANN has made a simple change in policy (a fee for returned domains over a threshold) that has had a real impact. As ICANN has noted the practice of domain tasting has been reduced in one year from 17.66 million domains per month to only 58,000 per month.

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About the author

Chester Wisniewski is a Senior Security Advisor at Sophos Canada. He provides advice and insight into the latest threats for security and IT professionals with the goal of providing clear guidance on complex topics. You can follow Chester on Twitter as @chetwisniewski, on App.net as Chester, Chester Wisniewski on Google Plus or send him an email at chesterw@sophos.com.