Nominet, the Registry responsible for .uk domain names, has recently suspended over 180 .uk domain names using the terms "covid-19" or "coronavirus", over concerns that the domain names had been registered for malicious purposes. This follows warnings from the National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crimes Agency about an increase in online phishing activity and organised crime targeting the UK.
A small number of the domain names were reactivated after Nominet was satisfied that there was no malicious intent behind them - for example, there are many who have used this time to do good - however, unfortunately, it appears that the majority may have been registered for illicit purposes.
Rightly so, we are therefore asked to be extra vigilant online and certainly before clicking on links that we do not recognise.
As a responsible registry, Nominet is always monitoring the new domain names being registered alongside those already in existence in the .UK namespace for any evidence of fraudulent or malicious usage. This is part of our ongoing work to reduce criminality in the national namespace, but the past few weeks have given us some new key words to search for, such as ‘coronavirus’ or ‘covid19’. Unsurprisingly, we have witnessed a rapid upswing in domain name registrations containing these virus-related terms.