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Zooming In On New Malicious Domain Registrations

April 2, 2020

COVID-19 is resulting in more people working from home and using video conferencing applications. Bad actors (the security kind) have tweaked to this.

Cyber-security solutions firm CheckPoint reported earlier this week it had noticed a significant spike in registrations of domain names containing the word "zoom".

Zoom, a video communications service, has exploded in popularity in recent times largely due to the coronavirus situation seeing businesses scrambling to find ways to continue to hold meetings with staff, customers and stakeholders.

CheckPoint says since the beginning of the year, more than 1700 new domains containing the word were registered and a quarter of those just in what was the previous week. 

"Out of these registered domains, 4% have been found to contain suspicious characteristics," reports the firm.

Zoom isn't the only service provider being targeted. CheckPoint states new phishing websites have been identified for every leading communication application.

As part of its advice, CheckPoint urges people to be aware of "lookalike domains" - these are domain names that contain characters that look somewhat similar, for example, replacing the letter o with the number 0. If being invited to a videoconferencing service, also be wary of spelling errors in email messages and on websites, and email senders who aren't familiar.

These "lookalike" domains are more easily registered under some extensions than others. For example, to register an Australian domain name, there are some barriers that can help prevent this sort of activity in terms of information needing to be supplied. Registrars also play a role in monitoring for names that could be used for malicious purposes.

It's not as though the world doesn't have enough to contend with at the moment with the coronavirus, but that others are taking advantage of the situation is very sad indeed.

As we mentioned early last month, registrations of coronavirus related domain names had also picked up substantially over the last couple of months, which is certainly no surprise. While many of these names will be used for helpful purposes, some will contain misinformation and others for darker purposes. The most reliable sources of information for Australians is the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation.

While on the topic of COVID-19, Australia's domain name registry operator recently explained how it was and continues to be preparing for operations while the COVID-19 crisis is occurring.

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