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article imageCIRA Made a Terrible Mistake with a Domain Name Ad

This article is sponsored content produced by Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP)—a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis, and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cybersecurity companies.
While CIRA’s campaign seems commercially sound, it has failed to meet one expectation: Doing sufficient domain name monitoring to ensure it wasn’t infringing anyone’s rights.
In fact, CIRA’s ad showed a banner with a “.com” domain name in the background — leading to a problematic situation. The registrar did not realize the domain name shown was trademarked and owned by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This incident was a terrible oversight on the domain registrar’s part, with potential legal implications for the registry.
When CIRA learned about its mistake, its representative delivered this message:
“We are really proud of, and stand behind, the ad. The reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive. We look forward to helping as many Canadian businesses as possible get online with a .ca domain name.”
Domain names are crucial to any business with an online presence. Without a domain name, it would be impossible for an organization to send corporate emails or put up its own website. During the early days of the Internet, registering a domain name was a tedious and costly process.
Today, however, the trouble with domain name registration lies more in that anyone can do it. Even cybercriminals can purchase and register a top-level domain (TLD) and put up malicious websites in hopes that victims would land on them and give out their personal information.
Easy-to-recall domain names related to brands have also become scarce because even individuals compete with businesses for them. Even famous brands have to deal with this challenge.
Google, for instance, could not use alphabet.com because someone else owns it. Nissan, meanwhile, had to spend more than 20 years before it could acquire nissan.com from an individual named Uzi Nissan.
This scarcity, however, is now being alleviated by the introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .bmw, .nike, and .mcdonalds along with country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) like .ca.
Despite the influx of new gTLDs and ccTLDs, however, .com domains remain the most sought after. As such, some businesses resort to convincing registrants to give up their domain names sometimes at exorbitant prices. The average price of a domain name bought from someone who already owns it is thousands of dollars. Cars.com is probably the most expensive domain to date, valued at US$872 million.
Other companies get lucky in that they find their hearts’ desires among discarded domains. In such cases, though, they should do due diligence to make sure the domains they wish to purchase were not given up for excellent reasons such as search engine results pages (SERP) and security violations. They should keep in mind that domains in Google’s blacklist, no matter how memorable, would never show up in search results because of SERP violations. Domains in security vendors’ blacklists, meanwhile, would always be blocked on computers where their solutions are installed.
To avoid ending up with domains that have a checkered past, users can use a WHOIS history checker before purchase. Such a tool would reveal everything about the domain in question. It can help future domain owners ensure that their websites do not have ties to any malicious activity, individual, or organization at any point in their life cycle.
Domain names have become more than just a means to gain online visibility. They are now unique identifiers that point to organizations’ brands. That is why it is important for all companies to make domain security a priority.
About the author
Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP)—a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis, and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cybersecurity companies. TIP is part of the WhoisXML API Inc. family, a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.
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