Brand Abuse, Digital Fraud

Unstoppable Domains: The Risks of Blockchain Technology

By Andre Luiz R. Silva on
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Bitcoin, smart contracts and distributed ledger are a few of the terms associated with blockchain technology. Amid the groundswell of interest in these innovations, a new initiative for blockchain domains is betting that autonomous control by the registrant will avoid any attempts to block or censor the sites created. The concept is certainly very interesting, but it begs the question: Would such domains remain uncensorable even in cases of fraud and other crimes?

 

Censorship-proof domains, eternal content?


Unstoppable Domains emerged with a mission: to promote “worldwide freedom of expression.” Stated simply, the company builds its domains on blockchain, which allows organized distribution with — and this is key — total individual autonomy

The company’s site states that its primary purpose is to create “wallet domains” for cryptocurrency (to avoid those long codes that must be copied). The secondary purpose is to enable content that cannot be taken down by third parties.

According to cofounder Bradley Kam, “The Internet is not free from censorship in most of the world,” with some places only slightly more open than others. That’s why, in addition to blockchain and providing “unique keys” to domain owners, the company will also use the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a network that decentralizes content storage.

With so much based on the vision of liberty (which has been the basic foundation of the Internet since its inception), the project has a robust plan for growth that is already at full throttle. In May of this year, the business raised $4 million in funds from billionaire Tim Draper’s venture capital firm. 

Just last July, the “unstoppable” domains were officially launched. The top-level domain (TLD) .zil (derived from the association with the Zilliqa blockchain platform) was released to those who were pre-registered. More recently, $250 thousand was granted to cover the costs of those wishing to migrate their wallets.


Safe harbor for criminals

According to the startup’s CEO, Matthew Gould, the possibility exists for fraud and crime on Unstoppable Domains. Even so, he states that “the purpose of decentralized technology is to put power back into end-users' hands — which can be a little scary.”

In other words: The future is uncertain, even for the CEO. That means that companies and users must pay extra attention to the content emerging from this innovation. Digital security is especially relevant when dealing with suspicious domains and URLs — just look at practices like cybersquatting, phishing and scams, which are so common on the Internet.

According to the Unstoppable Domains site, all cases involving the use of trademarks on .zil domains can be restored to the legitimate owners upon provision of proof. The problem is that this can occur only if the domain has been sold, but not yet been distributed. Once the new owner is registered, Unstoppable Domains can do nothing.

It’s also important to note that criminal practices exist that go beyond similar domain names. A hypothetical domain “specialsale.zil” can host crimes that cause real damage, such as data capture and financial loss (at all levels), through content that would be impossible to censor or remove. The big problem here is that this possibility is quickly becoming a reality.

 

In the future, what will security look like?


To answer that, we’ll need to wait for the upcoming chapters in Unstoppable Domains’ history and, one might also say, those of the vast system of security dealings between society and the Internet.  

It’s no coincidence that there have been daily discussions (primarily political) regarding the treatment of sensitive data and information, stimulated by government regulations such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and similar legislation worldwide.

While we keep watch, it would be a good idea to map other types of similar domain names (without blockchain)  and frauds that might be affecting your brand. Through automation and artificial intelligence techniques, Axur’s protection against digital risk is here to assist you right now. Find out about Digital Brand Compliance to check for domains and brand use violations, and Digital Fraud Discovery for phishing, malware and other types of fraud.

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ESPECIALISTA CONVIDADO

Eduardo Schultze, Coordenador do CSIRT da Axur, formado em Segurança da Informação pela UNISINOS – Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos. Trabalha desde 2010 com fraudes envolvendo o mercado brasileiro, principalmente Phishing e Malware

AUTHOR

Andre Luiz R. Silva

A journalist working as Content Creator at Axur, in charge of Deep Space and press activities. I have also analyzed lots of data and frauds here as a Brand Protection team member. Summing up: working with technology, information and knowledge together is one of my biggest passions!