The complete mess the WHOIS created, a Registrar perspective.

The public directory we call a WHOIS, where we publish registrant data of domain name owners, is a MESS.


Sure LEA’s and other crimefighters have a different opinion, and it is one I share in the sense, that abuse is a huge problem and abuse must be taken down. Often in these discussions, when we talk about the unlimited access to registrant data and that it also has to comply with privacy laws the discussion, usually goes the wrong way and often we can hear or read, the Registrars are pro-crime, or worse they condone child porn. Arguments to remain the current status quo, wich is understandable, but the reality is Registrars are mostly companies who try to run a business in a responsible manner. And now and then this becomes acknowledged by parties who know we hate abuse just as everyone else.

So let me post some facts and leave the LEA arguments outside of this scope.

Publishing personal data or registrant info in a public directory creates the following issues we deal with on a daily basis.

To understand this better you have to realize that ICANN publishes zone files that contain newly registered domain names. There are folks who scrape this info and scrape WHOIS info on a fully automated basis and resell this info or use it for their shady practices. Yes, this includes personal information. And no, they have no right, but they ignore every privacy law that there is out there and every disclaimer a Registrar has in place about the terms of usage.

When you register a domain name and get yourself some hosting and other services not much later, you will get the following in your email box.

Domain name renewal notice. This is not a renewal notice at all; it is a shady SEO company that urges you to pay them money to get listed in some vague directory to boost your SEO. The result, confused registrant, calling their Registrar support desk. We are losing money here.

Hosting notice. Within a few hours, our customers get an email from a shady hosting company that offers 99 Cent Hosting with an uptime of 100%. Our support teams have endless discussions with our customers explaining why we charge more, why we have better service, and it is just unreal when you hear these conversations. Again money down the drain.

Spam lists. Your information will be resold, spammers will gladly scrape your info, and a day later your email box contains emails ranging from Viagra to shady investment deals and marriage proposals from Russia.

Phone calls. Later in the week, you will get robot calls from companies trying to sell you whatever. Fake Microsoft employees are trying to trick you and a lot worse. And let’s not forget SMS messages.

Viri, malware, phishing. Enough said, hope you have a good virus scanner and let’s hope you do not get hit by some crypto locker ransomware.  If your computer gets infected by ransomware it is best to pay according to the FBI.

ICANN and policies and the current issues.

  • As a Registrar, we have to verify your email address.
  • As a Registrar, we have to email you an FOA when you want to transfer your domain name.
  • As a Registrar, we need to email you if you want to change the ownership of your domain name for whatever reason.

In November 2015 Registrars were hit hard by phishing emails. These emails looked like real emails Registrars send for the above reason. However, these emails carried a payload in the form of Ransomware.

For years we, been educating our customers not to click the cute teddy bear in emails and throw away email if it looks suspicious.

Since November 2015 our means of communication have taken a huge hit, processes come to a total standstill, our support desks are dealing with increased overhead. And the phishing continues, and every few months some Registrar takes a hit from these targetted phishing attacks. Domain names get suspended as our communication is longer trusted. Mass frustration.

We implemented DKIM, we use PGP to sign our emails, but it is simply not working as most folks have no idea what PGP is.

I understand the LEA arguments, but the above is also a reality, and it is bad, it is ugly, and it is all due to the fact we have WHOIS system that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

Perhaps ICANN should throw some money towards the abuse problem. As it is now, we have huge discussions, over what is, in my opinion, a penny war. But it is pennies what we earn, so let us take that issue out of the equation, and I am pretty sure the discussion with LEA’s and other parties will go much smoother.