At the end of September, Interpol coordinated a massive, multi-pronged effort to crack down on illegal Internet pharmacies that peddle fake prescription drugs. A recent article in The Register describes how police forces, customs agencies, ISPs, payment processors and delivery companies all contributed to the effort that arrested suspects in 81 countries.
Another major contributor to this takedown was Nominet, the United Kingdom-based domain name registry that operates the .UK ccTLD. Nominet suspended around 500 .UK domain names that were associated with these online pharmacies on the advice of law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
Nominet’s suspensions are different from the domain name seizures carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division on various occasions over the past year. Namely, whereas ICE moved the seized domain names to its own name servers and displayed a notice of seizure on the sites, Nominet simply stops the suspended domain names from resolving to content, effectively shutting the websites down.
Nominet used the fact that all of the domains contained fake WHOIS information as justification for the suspension, which violates the registration agreement for registering a .UK domain. Additionally, Nominent is currently working to develop a policy under which law enforcement will have a more formalized process for requesting that domains believed to be hosting criminal content be taken down without needing a court order.
The proactive approach that Nominet is taking should serve as a model for other registries, both those that operate ccTLDs as well as those that run gTLDs.