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Domains for nothing!

Are Companies Like Freenom paving the way for Fraud?

Being able to register a free domain – for no costs at all – may seem like a relatively legitimate and useful service. After all, there are several services like Freenom that could help small business owners, bloggers or people who want to share their thoughts - but what about the potential for fraud? 

Free domains may not be a big business from a profitability perspective themselves, but they open up the risk to quite a lot of different crimes. The possibilities are endless. Fraudsters can set up a domain in a company’s name within ten minutes, at no cost. This gives them the option to sell fake goods, host fake ads, or commit numerous other things that reflect badly on the company. 

 

What are free domains? 
Free domains are basically a free web address. Domain names have had quite a journey since the popularity of the internet boomed in the 1990s, but for the most part, they have always been something that costs money. Now services like Freenom have popped up that not only give users a free domain name but also provide the tools for them to create a fully functional website in minutes. Although Freenom claims to work closely with the well-known security company Kaperskyto keep their free domains safe - there are still innumerable ways in which the free domain system can be exploited. 

 

For example, websites that end in “.tk” are country level domains from Tokelau, an atoll in the south pacific, administrated through New Zealand, offering domains free of charge, if actively used. One of the reasons they are so attractive to scammers is because they are registered on the WHOIS registry with Freenom as the licensee, which makes it easier to stay anonymous.  


What are the risks to businesses? 
If you are a legitimate business, the chances are that it cost you a lot of money to register your domain and build your website. How disheartening then, that a fraudster can come along and register a domain in your name for free. One of the biggest risks is also the most obvious one. Criminals can use your company name to defraud your customers out of their hard-earned cash in various ways. They can easily use all of your company branding to create a legitimate looking website that asks for financial details from “customers”. Some may even go as far as setting up a website to push fake goods that are copies of your own brand. And then there are other risks that may not even be associated with your brand. You only need to fall slightly short of having adequate encryption to have your website hijacked by these websites. 


 
Who are Freenom and why should I be worried? 
Freenom offers people the opportunity to register free domain names. Although they do offer other TLD’s as part of their service, the free “.tk” one is evidently the most popular.
They offer a free DNS resolver service, but the security of the service and how it is run has long been questioned. 
 


What about the other risks? 
With hundreds of thousands of domains being registered every minute all over the world, it can be a daunting thought that you are not even keeping up with a small percentage of the ones that are registered in your name.  

 

This article was initially published by Scamadviser partner Globaleyez GmbH. The original report you can find here.

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