‘Security researcher’ faces $1m typosquatting suit

The email vulnerability that never got a CVE identifier.

Self-described journalist and security researcher Arthur Kenzie is facing a US$1 million lawsuit for registering misspelled domain names to prospect for incorrectly addressed emails.

The suit comes from US law firm Gioconda Law Group Arthur Kenzie, which accused Kenzie of registering “GiocondoLaw.com”—a slight deviation from the firm’s GiocondaLaw.com -- to illegally intercept its email, according to an Infoworld report.

The law firm alleges Kenzie used the domain to capture email addressed to “@GiocondoLaw.com” and argues the practice violates US cybersquatting, trademark and interception laws.

The firm claims Kenzie’s other targets include McDonald’s MasterCard, NewCorp and McAfee.

Kenzie has registered a long list of misspelled domains, according to scam watch site, Attrition.org, which earlier this year accused him of attempting to extort a number of well-known information security firms as well as HD Moore, chief security officer for penetration testing firm Rapid 7.

Kenzie notified Moore last December he had found a “Black Hole email vulnerability” affecting his site digitaldefense.net. Kenzie had registered “digitaldefence.net” and said he had captured a number of Moore’s emails.

While he allegedly had asked for $25,000 from some potential customers, he initially offered to sell the domain to Moore for $295. However, he eventually offered the domain to Moore for free after Attrition.org labelled Kenzie’s tactics as attempted extortion.

Kenzie had also purchased typosquatting domains for the sites of other well-known security researchers including Jacob Appelbaum, Kevin Mitnick, Bruce Schneier, Mathew Hennessy and a misspelled site for The TOR Project, according to Attrition.org.

In May, Kenzie, then identified as Wesley Kenzie, was forced to hand over two misspelled domains to defence contractor Lockheed Martin after facing similar accusations in an arbitration.

Kenzie defended his actions by pointing to the Godai Group's research last September that highlighted the threat to corporate email of the ‘doppelganger domain’ as evidence he was conducting investigative journalism. Kenzie argued Lockheed failed to understand or act upon the threat he had warned of.

Whether Kenzie meant to or not, Kenzie had also registered a number of sites that could be considered phishing sites, according to Attrition.org. The domains, “nevvscorp.com”, “pcvvworld.com” and “syrnantec.com” were phishing rather than typosquatting sites because they exploit a visual similarity to the real domain rather than typing errors.

Kenzie, who continues to defend his activities as legitimate research, reported this May that he failed to get Mitre to issue his Black Hole email vulnerability a CVE identifier because it was not tied to a specific software vulnerability.

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