This weekend, the DNS settings of a group of popular websites were hacked to redirect to the site of a Turkish hacker.
When users attempted to visit the sites of The Daily Telegraph, UPS, Vodaphone, The Register, National Geographic and others, they were greeted by a headline reading "Turkish Security, Come to Papa" in Turkish (see picture, left). The group behind the hack also claims credit for hacking the South Korean domain name registrar last month, an attack that affected over 100,000 domains, including those of HSBC Korea and Epson Korea.
When a site's DNS settings are hacked, it is not the same as the website itself being hacked. When hackers go after a website, they look for vulnerabilities in the site's code. When they target the DNS settings, they have to hack into the domain name registrar in order to gain access. Representatives from The Guardian reported that the hackers had gotten access through NetNames and others; CNET confirmed this yesterday.
The DNS settings of a given domain name basically tells it what IP address it should direct to; in this case, the hackers changed the IP addresses listed to the one for the "Turkish Security" site. Because of the way DNS changes work, not all visitors to these sites were affected by the hack at the same time. In turn, not all will be able to see the fixes that are made at the same time. As a precaution, The Register has opted to shut down its entire site as a precaution to shield its readers. Users can also clear their cookies in order to block the hackers from stealing their information.
Fortunately, this hack appears to merely be a prank. But the potential damages that DNS hacks are capable of wreaking are no joke.
During a recent interview with City A.M., former Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors Peter Dengate Thrush, who joined Top Level Domain Holdings in July after retiring from the ICANN Board, stated that the current domain name market is worth about $12 billion.
It is unclear exactly what Dengate Thrush was measuring in this estimation: whether he was referring to the value of the marketplace of companies that provide services to domain name registrants (registries, registrars, SEO service providers, advertisers, etc.), or to the marketable value of all domain names. At present, there are hundreds of millions of domain names across both generic (gTLDs) and country-code top level domains (ccTLDs).
What’s curious, however, is that Dengate Thrush made this assertion in the context of discussing new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). He believes that the domain name market will expand by around $3 to $4 billion with the introduction of new gTLDs. ICANN has predicted that the new gTLD program will launch hundreds of new domain extensions – compare that to the 22 existing gTLDs and approximately 240 existing ccTLDs. When these figures are taken into consideration, Dengate Thrush is basically predicting that the value of the marketplace will increase by only 25 to 30 percent, while the real estate in the gTLD marketplace will increase from anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 percent, according to some estimates. In that context, his estimations could be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the future value of new gTLDs, or, more likely, a lack of empirical data supporting his assertions.
The point I’m trying to make here is that I wouldn’t put too much stock in these assertions. It will be years before we can know with any certainty what kind of impact the new gTLD program will have on the domain name marketplace. One thing is certain, though: that impact is likely to be dramatic.
Readers of FairWinds’ Weekly News Brief will have already learned about Go Daddy’s announcement about its pricing structure for domain name registrations in the .XXX TLD. In the Sunrise A period, each domain will cost $209.99 the first year, which includes the application fee and the first year registration, and renewals will cost $99.99 per year. For Sunrise B, trademark owners will pay a one-time fee of $199.99 to block their trademarks for ten years. Those who participate in the .XXX landrush will be charged $199.99 the first year, which includes the application fee and the first year registration, and $99.99 per year for renewals. After that, General Availability domains will cost $99.99 for both the first year registration, and for yearly renewals.
We’ve already discussed on this blog the great lengths ICM Registry, which operates .XXX, is going to in order to provide resources for trademark owners to protect their marks. The fact that Go Daddy, one of the most widely recognized domain name registrars, is pricing .XXX domain names at $100 a pop is also likely to further deter cybersquatting in the TLD. Normally, cybersquatters squat on domain names because it is a quick, easy and, most importantly, cheap way to earn money. Setting the price to register .XXX domain names so high is likely going to discourage many cybersquatters who do not want to pay the registration fee.
While new schemes could evolve that make cybersquatting in .XXX profitable, many small-time cybersquatters are unlikely to have the stomach to pay to play this game.
The NFL’s preseason began on Thursday, which means we’re only a few weeks away from football season. And in my house, that means Packers games.
The Packers have won more championships than any other team in the NFL. This phenomenon has led to the town of Green Bay being known as“Titletown”; in fact, no fewer than 17 local Green Bay businesses use the term Titletown in their names.
This raises some red flags for the Packers, who own a trademark for the term Titletown. When they initially filed in 1990, it was to use the term on apparel like shirts and hats, but in November 2010, the team expanded the trademark to cover other businesses like resorts, conference centers, restaurants, bars, concerts and others, as well as an array of real estate services.
The Packers spend a good deal of time policing their trademark rights to “Titletown,” even convincing a local distillery to open a new bar and restaurant under the name “Green Bay Distillery” instead of “Titletown Distillery,” as it had originally planned to do. So needless to say, I was very surprised to find out that the Packers don’t own the domain name Titletown.com.
The domain was first registered in 1996, and currently does not host any content. According to the Wayback Machine, in the past the domain has pointed to a site with links to Packers news as well as to merchandise. We’ve seen other examples of UDRPs where past content has been factored into the Panel’s decision, meaning the Packers could have a fighting chance at recovering the name via UDRP.
Today, I’m heading off to London for a whirlwind three-day business trip. I’ll be attending a total of 15 meetings while I’m here, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing clients as well as some other business friends. Throughout this summer, we’ve been finding that many people are keenly interested in how FairWinds is working with companies to deal with new gTLDs, and how CADNA is working to improve Internet governance and promote policies that benefit both companies and Internet users, as well as promote cybersecurity.
I’m also really eager to see one of my good friends from college, who also happened to be a member of my wedding party. He’s been living in London with his wife and two children while on assignment for Goldman Sachs. I’m very happy to have been invited to his daughter’s second birthday party today. His sister flew in from Dubai and his parents traveled up from Greece for the occasion.
The forecast is calling for sunshine and a gorgeous 70 degrees – something we haven’t seen for months in Washington – for the party today. This should be a fantastic transition to the next few days in London.
As reported by Forbes and other outlets, Web.com will be acquiring domain name registrar Network Solutions for $405 million in cash, plus 18 million shares of common stock, valued at around $155 million.
This acquisition should help Web.com, parent company of Register.com, compete with GoDaddy, which was acquired by a group of private equity firms led by KKR & Co. and Silver Lake Partners last year in a deal worth $2.25 billion. Network Solutions is majority-owned by General Atlantic, another private equity firm, and after the acquisition, General Atlantic and other Network Solutions shareholders will own 37 percent of Web.com.
Network Solutions will bring its two million retail customers, hundreds of thousands of wholesale customers and over six million domains to Web.com. Register.com and Network Solutions are two of the oldest and highest priced registrars in existence.
This development, along with Go Daddy's acquisition, could signal a trend of consolidation in the domain name industry in anticipation of the potential explosion of activity in the domain name space as a result of ICANN's June 20 approval of the New gTLD Program.
Ken Hittel, VP Corporate Internet, at New York Life Insurance Company (NYL), a client of FairWinds, did a great interview for Forbes.com this week about social networking. Hittel expertly argues that allowing consumers to speak freely, even negatively, on social networks has actually helped NYL build a positive brand presence.
He explains that the few negative comments that have appeared have been drowned out by a chorus of positive comments from loyal customers. Essentially, negative comments are an opportunity for the community to unite around the brand, and as a result, build up the brand’s image. The leap of faith involved in exposing a brand to the uncensored openness of social media may seem risky, but working for an insurance company, Hittel is used to managing risks. His approach has paid off, with NYL’s Facebook fan base closing in on 100,000 members.
Hittel also points out that brands, even if they feel they are not “ready” for social media, need to be on Facebook and Twitter. The best approach, he says, is not to try to control social media, but rather to manage it by being present and participating in it. At FairWinds, we know that it all starts with getting there, and being where your customers are looking for you, by owning the best usernames and handles.
Congratulations to Ken on all his success!
As we talk with more businesses and brand owners, it is becoming very apparent that there is a significant amount of misinformation about new gTLDs being spread through the business community. Specifically, we have found that many brand owners are confused about what they can and cannot do in regards to new gTLDs. So we decided to set the record straight on some of the most common myths about new gTLDs that we’ve heard in a recent article for the CMO Council’s monthly newsletter, Marketing Magnified. Click through to read the full article, or check out the summary on FairWinds new blog, gTLD Strategy, which is dedicated to delivering accurate information and insights about the new gTLD program.
Late last week, Facebook filed a lawsuit against 25 typosquatters over domain names that are typographical variations of Facebook.com.
Last summer FairWinds found that over 48 million visitors per year are diverted away from Facebook by typo domain names. In the lawsuit, Facebook contends that the “defendants’ schemes…diminish the goodwill associated with Facebook and its marks, injure Facebook’s reputation, breach enforceable agreements between Defendants and Facebook, interfere with Facebook’s business, and unjustly enrich Defendants”.
In a study that we are currently conducting, we are researching the prevalence of survey scams on typo variations of social network domain names. Some of the most common typo or keystroke mistakes that Internet users make lead to surveys promising prizes like iPads or gift certificates in exchange for answering questions. Unfortunately, these surveys systematically steal users’ personal information and, unsurprisingly, no prizes are distributed. This is plaguing the most popular social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. We will be releasing the study later this month, so check back with us.
This week, I wrote an article for Forbes.com about what retail brands need to know about new gTLDs. All brands will have to adapt their digital strategies to the new gTLD space, but global retail brands will face particular challenges and opportunities.
For retail brands, perhaps more so than other industries, the branding implications of being “left behind” and seeming out of date if they do not adopt new gTLDs could be significant. If they stick to their .COM addresses, they could risk appearing “so 1999” as compared to their competitors who begin using branded gTLDs. Since ICANN will not publish the list of applications until after the application round closes, retail brands will have to take a gamble, and for many, the safe bet will be to assume that their competitors are, in fact, applying.
But on a brighter note, new gTLDs could offer interesting marketing opportunities for retail brands. Take back to school shopping as an example. Right now, most top-level domain equity lies in .COM, and there can only be one BackToSchool.com. In the new gTLD space, we could see addresses like BackToSchool.Target and BackToSchool.OldNavy, which could redirect to Target and Old Navy’s back to school sale pages.
On the subject of redirects, in most cases retail brands (and all brands) should not attempt to fully transition content to new gTLD domain names right away. They have made significant investments into optimizing their current sites to rank highly in search engine results, so until we know how search engine algorithms will account for new domains, brand owners should consider redirecting new domains to their existing .COM URLs.
New top-level domains will present online retailers with unique and unprecedented opportunities and challenges over the next few years. But the first and most crucial step that all brand owners must take between now and the opening of the application period is to gather facts and take the time to really explore whether or not applying for a new domain will be advantageous for their business.