The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is looking to replace the WHOIS system with one that includes authenticated access.

The current platform is used as a directory of contact details for domain names, but the system is being abused, according to the preliminary findings from a new study.

Indeed, the research, which was conducted by the University of Cambridge and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and commissioned by ICANN, found that there are more criminals accessing the directory than regular users.

The full results of the study has yet to be published, but senior policy director at ICANN Mary Wong wrote on the ICANN blog saying it shows “a significant percentage of the domain names used to conduct illegal or harmful Internet activities are registered via privacy or proxy services to obscure the perpetrator’s identity”.

A previous study performed by National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago had concluded that 20 per cent of registered domains across the top five generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) – .biz, .com, .info, .net and .org – used privacy or proxy services.

However, in NPL’s more detailed study on the use of privacy or proxy services across these five gTLDs, there was a statistically significant, above-average rate of privacy/proxy use for domains engaged in illegal or harmful online activities.

Currently, domain name owners are required to list the contact details for the administrators, which includes a phone number and address. However, as the information is available to anyone, several firms have started taking their own actions to secure their online privacy.

Based on its findings, NPL was able to conclude that the hypothesis for the study is true and that the percentage of domain names being used to conduct illegal or harmful internet activities that are registered via privacy or proxy services is much greater than those used for lawful online activities.

ICANN study finds abuse of WHOIS privacy and proxy services
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