BOSTON – An Internet company is finalizing the automatic registration of website names that include words or phrases related to the COVID-19 pandemic, an attempt to combat coronavirus-related fraud.
Los Angeles-based Namecheap Inc. made the promise after a federal judge in Texas ordered the removal of a website accused by the United States Department of Justice of stealing credit card information while offering counterfeit kits of coronavirus vaccines. The website allegedly offered what it claimed were World Health Organization vaccine kits in exchange for a "shipping charge,quot; of $ 4.95.
There is currently no vaccine against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Experts say it will take 12-18 months to develop one.
The Justice Department said the site, coronoavirusmedicalkit.com, was collecting credit card information. The site registered that domain with Namecheap. Its unknown owners were listed as "John Doe,quot; in the court documents and could not be reached for comment. A Panama phone number on your record was disconnected.
Namecheap CEO Richard Kirkendall said in an email to customers Thursday that the company was banning terms like "coronavirus," "COVID," and "vaccine,quot; from the company's domain availability search tool, a measure that prevents the automatic registration of names that include those terms. He said that company employees could manually register legitimate domains.
America's Largest Domain Registration Business The Arizona-based GoDaddy has not adopted a similar policy, but spokesperson Dan Race said it has a "human review process that effectively detects and disrupts fraudulent content."
Toronto-based Tucows Inc., a major competitor whose retail registry business is called Hover, also hasn't removed virus-related keywords from its customer-oriented search engine. However, the company is marking all "covid,quot; and "corona,quot; domains for manual review, spokesman Graeme Bunton said. He is particularly looking for false evidence and cures.
Cybersecurity companies have reported a huge leap in coronavirus-related internet domains in the past few weeks, and say many are the work of cybercriminals who spread malware, trick the public with fake cures, and harvest payment cards and other personal information. A cybersecurity company reported discovering a malicious data theft program disguised as a virus information map.
The New York Attorney General's office wrote Namecheap, GoDaddy, and other top US registrars on March 20 asking them to take aggressive action against the illegal use of coronoavirus domains, including blocking the rapid registration of virus-related domains.
All of the companies responded, said Kim Berger, head of NY AG's office for Internet and technology. "Everyone has promised a wish and the intention to cooperate with us."
In a tweet The same day the letter was sent, GoDaddy said it had already removed sites promoting the coronavirus online for violating its terms of service, and said it would continue to do so. "We are all in this together," the company wrote.
In response to an online text message, Kirkendall referred the AP to a report on the ZDNET tech news site, citing an email he sent to Berger's office.
Bunton of Tucows said that while having an "extra eyeball,quot; in virus-related domains is important, some people are doing "wonderful things,quot; online to gather resources in their communities. Tucows wants to be careful not to slow down those efforts with a hard approach, he said.
GoDaddy & # 39; s Race said hundreds of domains incorporating the terms "corona,quot; or "covid,quot; were being used for legitimate and beneficial purposes. As an example, he listed micovidcommunity.com, a Michigan response site.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.