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A Black Eye For The .PW Domain Extension

May 5, 2013

Spammers descended on the .PW extension after it was recently made available for registration by the general public.

.PW is the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Palau, an island nation located in the western Pacific Ocean with a population of around 21,000 people spread out over 250 islands. 

The extension was originally delegated to Palau in 1997 and since then it has been re-delegated on several occasions; most recently as a budget domain for general registration. 

In its latest incarnation; .PW general availability opened with more than 4000 registrations in 30 minutes and achieved 50,000 registrations in its first 3 weeks.

However, not all has been well in the land of .PW. 

Security company Symantec recently reported that it had observed a surge in spam messages containing .pw top-level domain URLs. 

In the week to April 19, 2013; spam emails from or featuring .PW domains made up 5.6% of all spam messages detected by Symantec. Out of the hundreds of TLD's in operation, the little known and still quite small in terms of user base .PW had gained the unfortunate distinction of ranking at no.4 in the world.

For what is a relatively unknown extension to much of the general public to be hit in such a way isn't the best scenario as it has the potential to impact on trust of .PW sites. 

However, according to DomainIncite; the .PW registry operator has recognised and pounced on the problem, deactivating 4,000 - 5,000 .PW domains for breaches of its anti-abuse policy. The registrar responsible for allowing registration of most of the domains has also been penalised.

Another budget (in this case, free) domain extension that has suffered an image challenge is the .TK extension; which in the past has been a major source of malicious registrations in the form of phishing domains.

Legitimate parties register these "other" domains for reasons sometimes other than financial. Often the desired name may have already been taken in the better known and trusted .com, or in the case of Australian businesses, domain extension.

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