National Physical Laboratory

Hidden identities on the web

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is conducting a study to examine the extent to which generic top-level domain names (such as .com or .org web addresses) involved in illegal or harmful internet activities are registered via Privacy or Proxy services - protecting their operators from detection by the authorities.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

NPL was selected to carry out this work by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a worldwide not-for-profit public-benefit corporation which coordinates the internet's naming system and is dedicated to keeping the internet secure, stable and interoperable.

The study will help the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) and the ICANN community better understand how often cyber criminals obscure their identities using common methods such as Privacy/Proxy registration.

During the study, a collaborative team led by Richard Clayton at NPL will examine a variety of illegal or harmful internet activities, including phishing, malware distribution, money laundering, unlicensed pharmacies, typosquatting, child sexual abuse images, spam and cybersquatting. The team will then measure the percentage of domain names registered via Privacy/Proxy services, as well as those registered using stolen identities or with incorrect information.

NPL will then determine whether the use of such privacy services is more prevalent among domains involved in illegal or harmful activities than it is among those which are registered for entirely lawful purposes.

The results from the study are expected to be available in early 2013.

Watch a presentation from Richard Clayton entitled 'Evil on the internet'

More on NPL's work in the Digital Economy

For more information, please contact Richard Clayton

Last Updated: 19 Nov 2013
Created: 8 May 2012