About Theo Geurts

CIPP/E Contractual Compliance and Privacy Officer at Realtime Register B.V.

RiskReact on Domain Name Security & Domain Locks

RiskReact is a service of Realtime Register B.V. with a focus on security threats, cyber intelligence & OSINT.

Last year a registrar employee was the victim of social engineering resulting in an unauthorized transfer of a domain name. 

A few months ago, a registrar employee was the victim of a spear-phishing attack, resulting in a DNS hijack. 

A possible solution to counter such issues and other risks is a Domain Name Registry Lock. 

Domain name registry locks are available for many TLDs. They all cover the same basic level of protection. 

  • Domain name update lock, preventing unauthorized or accidental updates
  • Domain name deletion prevention
  • Prevents unauthorized transfers or domain theft
  • Prevents host updates or deletions 

When we look at our competitors who offer registry locks as a service we observe the following issues; 

  • No option for secure and encrypted user authentication. 
  • Domain updates and passphrases are not encrypted.
  • One size fits all procedure.
  • Procedures are posted publicly on websites for anyone to read, including social engineers and hackers with malicious intent. 
  • Low prices. While low pricing is not a bad thing itself, low pricing usually does not provide the highest possible security. 

With RiskReact, we approach the solution from a different angle. 

Our approach is not to offer the cheapest or most convenient solution. With Risk React, we aim for the best custom solution that matches your threat and risk profile. 

In counter-surveillance, a useful strategy is to let unknown surveillance operators know that there are robust measures in place that make surveillance hard and detectable. Such an approach is acting as a deterrence to protect the target. Below I will explain how Risk React can work as deterrence and why it is an excellent solution to protect your high profile domain names. 

Assess the risk (module 1, included in base price)

Together with the client/reseller, we will discuss the potential dangers that a domain name might face and discuss the best possible solution. 

After the decision on what solution is best, we will perform an OSINT and non-intrusive technical scan to determine if the solution matches reality.

If there is a divergence in the assumed risk model, we will inform the client/reseller so we can adjust the solution if required.

Module one also includes a scan for public breached user accounts. In case of detection and in combination with the RiskReact service, we will discuss this first with you as it is usually better to avoid such user accounts and email addresses altogether for security reasons.

One or multiple authorized users (module 2)?

Depending on the setup and organization of the client/reseller, it might be advisable to add more authorized users to add more flexibility. 

For example, we have a client where both the CISO and CTO have to approve the changes. 

Out of band, out of the box (module 3). 

We understand that in some cases, like a domain name that is part of a critical internet infrastructure requires a lot more added security and a different set of protocols and perhaps different communication channels. 

For example, it might be necessary that communications are done through an encrypted decentralized communication protocol.

Such options can all be discussed, so surprise us!

SOCMINT (module 4).

Social media is great for branding until you become the target of activists or worse, hacktivists.

RiskReact can monitor social media, and our CTI analysts will inform you of possible threats. Being alerted of such events at an early stage allows you to deploy possible mitigation responses.

Intelligence Monitoring (module 5)

If required, we can put the domain name on i24/7 intelligence monitoring. Such a system pulls intelligence and abuse feeds from free and paid sources and sends out alerts to our analysts for further investigation.

Our intelligence feeds are rather diverse and go beyond the regular abuse feeds. Our feeds include the monitoring of fake news, terrorism, porn, scams, rogue pharmacies, and much more. 

If our analysts determine that contact with the reseller/client is required, we will contact the designated contacts right away with our assessment. 

Public breached and leaked database assessment and monitoring (module 6)

RiskReact monitors domain names and PII provided by the client/reseller by checking public breached databases and publicly-leaked databases. These databases are updated almost weekly. When we discover the submitted PII in a breach/leak, we notify the client/reseller. 

Be advised we need to comply with the GDPR, and the service mentioned above has some restrictions.

 Dark web Research (module 7)

Dark web research is an excellent way to detect possible threats arising from the dark Web. 

Such research includes the detection of exploits used in the wild or leaked information. Naturally, analyzing a part of the Internet frequented by individuals trying to stay out of the spotlight is a more difficult task than traditional measurement campaigns conducted on the regular Web.

For more information, contact our support team to discuss your potential domain name risks and solutions!

Additional MFA support at Realtime Register

In addition to the recent introduction of adding API keys, now we are adding Multi-Factor Authentication support. Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user’s identity for a login or other transaction.

Multifactor authentication combines two or more independent credentials: what the user knows (password), what the user has (security token) and what the user is (biometric verification).

We will support the following methods for MFA:

  • Webauthn (FIDO2) supporting Touch or Pin and Touch sensor like Yubikey with secure elements, Software authenticators and also Biometric authentication like Finger, Face, Iris/ Voice recognition.
  • TOTP (Google authenticator)

We offer multiple methods to add an additional layer of security for your account. Read more how to add MFA to your account via our Knowledgebase: How to enable MFA on your account.

Streamlining domain name abuse reports and disclosure requests

We released a few new features, one of them, RDAP reseller Vcard. 

To further streamline abuse reports & disclosure requests, Realtime Register introduces the Abuse Vcard. This Vcard will display your (reseller role) abuse contact details through RDAP. 

Showing your (external) abuse contact information will increase the speed of abuse reporting. 

Internal abuse email address/information. 

Resellers can also enter abuse contact information for our abuse & support staff. 

We are not setting requirements here for our resellers, but it would be good if this email address is monitored 24/7. We intend to use this info for emergency communications when dealing with security threats. 

Abuse Domain Manager

 

External abuse reporting address (RDAP). 

RDAP, the replacement of WHOIS, is role-based and supports Vcards. The general idea is that resellers supply their public abuse email address and Company name and telephone number. 

Once this information is present in our system, we will display the info through RDAP. We are confident that the use of this extra contact will streamline abuse reporting.  

Resellers can also assign an abuse contact information for sub-resellers or different labels using the branding management tool within the reseller account. 

At a later stage, we will incorporate such public abuse email addresses in our reseller lookup tool. 

Reseller lookup tool? Yes, just before the GDPR enforcement back in 2018, we introduced a reseller lookup tool to assist LEA’s and other third parties. 

https://www.realtimeregister.com/resources/locate-your-provider/

Reseller Lookup tool

For the reader who knows RDAP very well, yes, we are using the reseller role to display abuse contact information. 

We think that this a better use for now as we already have a reseller lookup tool. 

While RDAP supports many more roles, there is currently no standard for other roles. Once more roles are defined, we can add more info to RDAP. 

Data Protection Officer 

If your company has a DPO, please enter their contact information. While this would satisfy GDPR compliance requirements, there are multiple practical reasons: 

  • Registrant disclosure requests
  • More streamlined communication if there is a data breach. 
  • Improved communication if a data subject wants to exercise his or her rights provided by the GDPR. 

RDAP Output with Abuse Vcard

ICANN SSAD.

The ICANN community is still working on the Standardized System for Access and Disclosure (SSAD).

The details of how this is going to work are still being discussed.

 But we imagine that at some point, we want to automate disclosure requests as much as possible. 

The DPO contact role may, at some point, be used within the SSAD to send disclosure requests.

GDPR Art 27

For those of our resellers who need to comply with Art 27, you can now enter an email address of such a GDPR Representative.

Again this is to ensure better coordination between requestors and other third parties. 

The GDPR Representative data is not public in the WHOIS or RDAP. 

Please check our knowledge base on how to add this information to your into the Realtime Register Domain Manager.

Using Spiderfoot to combat domain name abuse/security threats

“Behavior reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the “artist,” you must study his “art.” The crime must be evaluated in its totality. There is no substitute for experience, and if you want to understand the criminal mind, you must go directly to the source and learn to decipher what he tells you. And, above all: Why + How = Who.”
― John E. Douglas, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

The above quote is also applicable when you deal with cybercrime investigations. Though registrars usually do not deal with serial killers, we do deal with a lot of security threats.
And security threats require a holistic approach to get to the Why + How = Who.
Lucky for cyber threat intelligence analysts, there is Spiderfoot created by Steve Micallef. Spiderfoot automates a lot of research and combines the data.

Spiderfoot Tree map

So let me run you through a typical abuse report and how I used to approach such a report.
Assume the domain name account-login.tld is reported for malware activities. The experienced investigator understands that such a domain name can be used for a lot of different things.

  • apple.com.account-login.icu
  • BankName.account-login.tld
  • YourCompany.URLaccount-login.tld

With just a few of the above examples, the potential scope of criminal possibilities has expanded from malware to spam to phishing and or account theft. BEC/VEC fraud is also associated with such domain names.

I also could be dealing with a poorly chosen domain name of a company that uses the domain name to let employees log in to a CRM. Here at Realtime Register, we also have a few domain names that, at first glance, reveal nothing about our business but are essential in our daily operations. Suspending such domain names even if there is a report of malware could be very tricky.
Not to mention the legal liabilities.
If the domain name is suspended and hundreds of employees cannot do their work, well, again tricky.

So what I lack here is actionable info.
The first action is to inform the reseller of the security threat report. Making sure the uptime is as low as possible is essential. The reseller might be dealing with an unmanaged VPS, which also complicates the matter.
I mention the unmanaged VPS with a reason. Often wholesale registrars are powerless to address the issue.
Wholesale registrars might not host anything or do not provide email services. But with some research, things might become actionable.

Weapons of choice.
So there are many tools out there that you can use for your investigation.
Virustotal.com can be used for a second opinion when dealing with malware or phishing. It has many more features, so check it out.

Do you want to check if subdomains are present for malicious practices? Well, try Sublist3r.

If you want to check co-hosted sites, DGA domains, or cybersquatting domain names on a server, check out RiskIQ community edition.
RiskIQ is also great for some first OSINT research and is just awesome when doing reverse domain name lookups through a Google or FB id.

You also want to check some threat exchanges like Pulsedive. Getting some info on past breaches and leak sites is also handy to known.
Doing a little research on the dark web through Intelligence X on the domain name could reveal actionable info also.

The need for speed
Checking all the mentioned sources would take a lot of time, most likely a full day to gather the information.
Not to mention, you need to analyze all the information.

So here is where Spiderfoot comes in.
Spiderfoot connects to all these databases and pulls that info for you.
One interface, one scan, and within 30 minutes, you usually have actionable information.
Through the report section, you correlate the data and collected evidence.
The evidence can be exported, which is a great plus if an officer of the law contacts you about a malicious domain name.
Usually, LE’s officers are somewhat surprised by the amount of data you have on a target.

Spiderfoot short overview

Reconnaissance, the first scan
The scan setting I use is always set to passive, and there are a few reasons for that.
-I do not want to alert the criminals that they are being investigated.
-The scan is a lot quicker, and it gives me enough results to understand the threat level.
-As I am not sure about what kind of technical infrastructure I am dealing with, I like to make sure I do not break something by accident. Having a reseller go berzerk on you is something you want to avoid for many good reasons.

By now, I have confirmation that either passing the security threat report to the reseller was enough.
Or I need to suspend the domain name?

I also might have evidence now that I am dealing with a criminal reseller.
Or criminals are abusing the services of our resellers. Either way, I need to act.
What action is required depends on many factors. In the past, we dealt with criminal resellers who registered a bunch of sleeper domain names.
Usually, it is best to take all those domain names offline before they become active. But again, there might be a situation where this is not the best course of action. For example, you do not want to alert the criminal just yet.
Or there is conflicting info that requires more investigation focus.

Versions of Spiderfoot.
There are several versions out there of Spiderfoot. My advice if you are going to use Spiderfoot go for the HX, aka cloud version. Visit the website here.

  • You have a centralized solution and reports for you and your team members in one place
  • Always the latest version
  • Instant access to new modules
  • No need to tinker around with Linux or Python

Overkill?
The above use of OSINT techniques and the use of Spiderfoot as part of a set procedure when dealing with domain names that are engaged in abuse might seem like overkill.
But too often, the reality is that we quickly detect patterns and can avoid future security threats and prevent fraud for our customers.
Usually, these fraudulent domain names are registered with stolen credit cards or stolen Paypal accounts.
As you can imagine, there is a monetary loss, not to mention there is paperwork involved.

No reports.
I want to highlight the fact that a lot of abuse goes unreported.
My first thought that the correct parties were contacted by skipping the registrar.
But often, I had to hear back that a hosting company wasn’t informed about the security threat.
Where the disconnect is located is unknown to me at this moment.
But perhaps the issue of the disconnect could be a discussion item for ICANN 66, as it appears there is a lot of low hanging fruit.

More Spiderfoot modules

For more information about Spiderfoot, check the website.
A word of advice for my registrar/registry colleagues.
While Spiderfoot automates a lot of tasks for you, it does not substitute experience.
Experience in cyber threat intelligence is required in your decision making. Again Why + How = Who.

.

Nic IT and consent for publishing data?

The Italian registry has made some changes to their production system and in my opinion, it is not an improvement.

Till today you could opt out for publishing data in the WHOIS for the following entities:

  • Natural persons Italian and EU based
  • Freelance workers/professionals (Italian based)
  • Italian Companies/one-man companies (Italian based)
  •  Public organizations (Italian based)
  •  Non-profit organizations(Italian based)
  •  Foreign companies/organizations matching 2-6 (EU based)
  •  Other subjects (Italian based)

Since today the opt-out is available for natural persons only.
All other entities must agree to the fact that its data will be published in the WHOIS. If the registrant is not a natural person and does not agree, the domain name will not be registered.

While legally speaking the above is correct as only natural persons are covered by the GDPR and legal entities are not.
However, a majority of the lawyers in the EU think there is an exception to the rule, as one-man-owned entities and freelancers are viewed as a natural person as it is not possible to separate personal and corporate data. But unless a DPA or a court confirms this exception, the situation is as it is.

Due to the above, we advise our resellers to inform their customers of the changes by the Italian Registry and warn of the consequences.

How the Registry handles personal data in the WHOIS can be read here.