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Investigating Domain Abuse Complaints with Brand Monitoring Software

Cybersquatters can pose severe risks for brands, so it's good news when a company wins against them. Home Box Office, Inc. (HBO) recently won its case in a domain dispute for TrueDetective.com. The titular show has a huge cult following, which explains why someone may want to leverage a domain name around it.

In a complaint filed with the National Arbitration Forum, HBO claimed that the domain's owner was cybersquatting. The accused, a Saint Kitts and Nevis-based company called Dvlpmnt Marketing, Inc., did not respond to the complaint notice. Other surrounding details of the case include:

  • HBO legally owns the "True Detective" mark since the early 2000s after its previous owner signed over his rights to it. HBO asserted that the accused's domain closely resembles its mark, and adding a ".com" to it doesn't constitute fair use.
  • The respondent's company also had no apparent relations whatsoever with the mark.
  • TrueDetective.com resolves to a landing page that features advertising links to HBO Go and others, indicating the respondent's potential involvement in pay-per-click (PPC) schemes.
  • The links appear to redirect to copycat websites that download malicious programs onto a visitor's computer.

In short, HBO did itself a favor by going after the domain abuser as soon as it got wind of the infringement. At the time of writing, however, the domain has not yet been transferred to HBO. Moreover, it continues to display suspicious ad links, including one for Vogue Magazine.

Separate reports revealed that other companies are following HBO's example, including tech behemoth Facebook. The social media giant recently sued domain name registrar Online NIC for allowing users to register lookalike domains.

Taking Back Control of Cybersquatting Domains with a Brand Monitoring Software

Most businesses don't realize the importance of monitoring how their name is used by web registrants until it causes an issue. But cybersquatters are fond of registering misspelled variants of popular domain names for use in fraud and spreading malware.

Domainers that broker domain name acquisitions are not cybersquatters. However, they, too, can easily fall victim to cybersquatters — and consequently, be tagged as infringers themselves — if they unknowingly facilitate the sale of domains tied to brand abuse.

Domainers and brand owners can use brand monitoring software, though, to uncover malicious entities that may be abusing their trademarked assets. These tools offer valuable insights on domain record changes.

To illustrate, an assessment of TrueDetective.com carried out on Brand Monitor generated 500 misspelled variations of the domain. Any of these can be used by cybercriminals to impersonate the makers of the eponymous show. Monitoring them regularly would serve HBO well in case enterprising criminals stake their claim on any of the domains and start using it for phishing or other malicious campaigns.

We also took a look at the historical domain records of TrueDetective.com using WHOIS History Search and found that it changed hands several times before the respondent obtained it. It was first created in 1999 by an unknown user using the email address info@truedetective[.]net.

The current registrant Dvlpmnt Marketing, Inc., claimed the domain in April 2018 and implemented numerous changes to the domain's records, including its nameservers. One of the new nameservers (NS1.VOODOO.COM) currently hosts four parked domains. A threat intelligence tool flagged one of them (eric[.]pro) for redirecting visitors to other destinations and using nameservers that are not listed in its records.

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The relative ease of obtaining domains and using marketing tools has enabled the rapid transformation of today's businesses. Unfortunately, nefarious actors also use the same tools to advance their ill objectives. Using brand monitoring software like Brand Monitor allows enterprises to continually keep track of the health and hygiene of their web assets amid ever-increasing threats.

WhoisXML API

About WhoisXML API – Whois API, Inc. (whoisxmlapi) is a big data and API company that provides domain research & monitoring, Whois, DNS, IP, and threat intelligence API, data and tools to a variety of industries.  Visit Page

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