Sued by Meta, Freenom Halts Area Registrations – Krebs on Safety

The area identify registrar Freenom, whose free domains have lengthy been a draw for spammers and phishers, has stopped permitting new area identify registrations. The transfer comes simply days after the Dutch registrar was sued by Meta, which alleges the corporate ignores abuse complaints about phishing web sites whereas monetizing visitors to these abusive domains.

Freenom’s web site incorporates a message saying it isn’t presently permitting new registrations.

Freenom is the area identify registry service supplier for 5 so-called “nation code high stage domains” (ccTLDs), together with .cf for the Central African Republic; .ga for Gabon; .gq for Equatorial Guinea; .ml for Mali; and .tk for Tokelau.

Freenom has all the time waived the registration charges for domains in these country-code domains, presumably as a strategy to encourage customers to pay for associated providers, akin to registering a .com or .web area, for which Freenom does cost a payment.

On March 3, 2023, social media large Meta sued Freenom in a Northern California court docket, alleging cybersquatting violations and trademark infringement. The lawsuit additionally seeks details about the identities of 20 completely different “John Does” — Freenom prospects that Meta says have been notably energetic in phishing attacks towards Fb, Instagram, and WhatsApp customers.

The lawsuit factors to a 2021 study (PDF) on the abuse of domains performed by Interisle Consulting Group, which found that these ccTLDs operated by Freenom made up 5 of the High Ten TLDs most abused by phishers.

“The 5 ccTLDs to which Freenom offers its providers are the TLDs of alternative for cybercriminals as a result of Freenom offers free area identify registration providers and shields its prospects’ id, even after being introduced with proof that the domains are getting used for unlawful functions,” the criticism expenses. “Even after receiving notices of infringement or phishing by its prospects, Freenom continues to license new infringing domains to those self same prospects.”

Meta additional alleges that “Freenom has repeatedly didn’t take applicable steps to research and reply appropriately to experiences of abuse,” and that it monetizes the visitors from infringing domains by reselling them and by including “parking pages” that redirect guests to different industrial web sites, web sites with pornographic content material, and web sites used for malicious exercise like phishing.

Freenom has not but responded to requests for remark. However makes an attempt to register a website by the corporate’s web site as of publication time generated an error message that reads:

“Due to technical points the Freenom software for brand new registrations is briefly out-of-order. Please settle for our apologies for the inconvenience. We’re engaged on an answer and hope to renew operations shortly. Thanks on your understanding.”

Picture: Interisle Consulting Group, Phishing Panorama 2021, Sept. 2021.

Though Freenom relies in The Netherlands, a few of its different sister firms named as defendants within the lawsuit are included in the USA.

Meta initially filed this lawsuit in December 2022, nevertheless it requested the court docket to seal the case, which might have restricted public entry to court docket paperwork within the dispute. That request was denied, and Meta amended and re-filed the lawsuit final week.

In keeping with Meta, this isn’t only a case of one other area identify registrar ignoring abuse complaints as a result of it’s dangerous for enterprise. The lawsuit alleges that the homeowners of Freenom “are a part of an internet of firms created to facilitate cybersquatting, all for the advantage of Freenom.”

“On info and perception, a number of of the ccTLD Service Suppliers, ID Protect, Yoursafe, Freedom Registry, Fintag, Cervesia, VTL, Joost Zuurbier Administration Providers B.V., and Doe Defendants had been created to cover belongings, guarantee illegal exercise together with cybersquatting and phishing goes undetected, and to additional the targets of Freenom,” Meta charged.

It stays unclear why Freenom has stopped permitting area registration, nevertheless it may very well be that the corporate was not too long ago the topic of some form of disciplinary motion by the Web Company for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit entity which oversees the area registrars.

In June 2015, ICANN suspended Freenom’s skill to create new domains or provoke inbound transfers of domains for 90 days. In keeping with Meta, the suspension was premised on ICANN’s dedication that Freenom “has engaged in a sample and observe of trafficking in or use of domains similar or confusingly just like a trademark or service mark of a 3rd celebration through which the Registered Identify Holder has no rights or respectable curiosity.”

ICANN has not but responded to requests for remark.

A replica of the amended criticism towards Freenom, et. al, is accessible right here (PDF).