A Peek into Top-Level Domains and Cybercrime

Top-level domains (TLDs), such as .com, .net, .xxx and .hu, sit at the highest level of the domain name system (DNS) naming hierarchy. When users want to acquire domain names (e.g., paloaltonetworks.com), typically, they need to register them under a TLD directly or one level lower (e.g., google.co.uk). Properties and policies of TLDs such as pricing, registration restrictions, security practices and the lexical similarity to other TLDs (.cm vs .com) influence how attractive criminals will find these TLDs for their endeavors.

Out of more than 1,000 TLDs, the top 25 TLDs (by number of malicious domains) account for more than 90% of all malicious domain names. While these 25 TLDs are not malicious, they are well-positioned to help mitigate malicious domain registrations. We find that TLDs offering free domain registration are among the top preferred TLDs for phishing domains. We hypothesize that the above-mentioned properties and policies play a germane role in making a TLD favorable for criminal enterprises.

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Source: Palo Alto/Unit 42