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Dotless Domains 'Dangerous'

August 9, 2013

A company contracted by ICANN to delve into dotless domains has expressed concerns regarding the concept.

In a dotless domain world, certain words could be typed into a browser address bar without the "." and they would resolve to a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) name. Some of the parties vying for extensions under ICANN's gTLD program have expressed a desire to operate dotless domains - among them; Google.

However, Carve Systems LLC, which carried out the study, has warned about letting this happen without some major changes to systems it may affect. The company identified three major categories of concerns.

Among the issues is the possibility of "name collisions" whereby a dotless name used on a private network becomes a resolvable name on the public Internet, which may lead to users unknowingly accessing untrusted Internet resources sharing the same name.

Carver states there is also an issue of trust and confusion as users have associated the "dot" domains with the web and dotless with private networks for many years.

Another concern is some software has been programmed to make "trust" decisions based on the premise of dotless names always referring to trusted hosts on private networks. For example, Internet Explorer has been confirmed to classify dotless names as Intranet sites.

Also confirmed is that applications may leak data to 3rd party dotless names if a corporate Intranet resource with the same name is disconnected.

Carve Systems has compiled a series of recommendations concerning the issues it identifies and advises further research. 

Commenting on the study, ICANN stated, "The Carve Systems report identifies several risks, ten (10) of which are considered key risks that dotless domain names pose."

The company's Dotless Domain Name Security and Stability Study can be viewed in full here (PDF).

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