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The "Shadiest" Top Level Domains

September 4, 2015

With the proliferation of new domain extensions, opportunities for fraudsters have increased - and some new Top Level Domains (TLDs) appear to be hosting a significant amount of "shady" activity says security firm, Blue Coat.

A report from the company states more than 95 percent of websites in 10 different TLDs are rated as suspicious - and most of those TLD's are some of the newer ones launched under ICANN's new gTLD program.

By August this year, the number of TLDs had grown to over a thousand, "many of which may be considered for web security purposes as neither safe nor friendly."

Sites were considered shady if they were noted in the company's database in the category of spam, malware, scam, botnet, suspicious, phishing or Potentially Unwanted Software (PUS).

"Businesses should consider blocking traffic that leads to the riskiest TLDs," says Blue Coat. "Users should use caution to click on any links that contain these TLDs if they encounter them in search results, e-mail, or social network environments."

The report will be unsettling reading; particularly for registrants of domains in these so-called "shady" TLD's who are hosting legitimate web sites. 

Earlier this year, it was reported new TLD's were apparently already quite popular with spammers and in July, Bloomberg was victim of a domain name related hoax that saw value in shares of Twitter jump; albeit briefly.

The reputation of a TLD can play a role in customer perceptions - and in this regard, not all TLD's are created equal.

"Ideally, TLDs would all be run by security-conscious operators who diligently review new domain name applications, and reject those that don’t meet a stringent set of criteria," states Blue Coat. "The reality for many of these new neighborhoods is that this is not happening."

Thankfully, .AU domain names have never suffered such a reputation crisis and there is a high degree of awareness of and trust in the extension; due in part to quite strict registration criteria. Two-thirds of Australians are more likely to trust .AU websites.

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