Nominet proposes '.uk' Internet domain to boost web security

Only UK-based organisations will qualify

UK registry Nominet has proposed a new shortened '.uk' business domain it believes will help stamp out the problem of foreign fraudsters using apparently UK-based domains to scam consumers.

The new domains would be open to all UK-based businesses and sit alongside the current range of possibilities - including the hugely-popular - appearing as ''.

However, the more important underlying change is that the new domain will impose extra checks, including that a business has a UK presence in order to qualify. Registrars selling them would also have to meet defined service levels to avoid the possibility of shady outfits gaming the system.

Businesses buying a .uk domain will also get a package of after-sales security including daily checking for hijacking and malware as well as monitoring of DNSSEC domain verification. Domains falling foul of security checks would risk swift suspension.

If it works this would represent a huge step up from the often-criticised wild west of today's domain sales which has been all about piling up as many domains at the lowest cost. That has handed the management headache to businesses.

The disadvantage of the proposal will be cost, at a reported £20 per domain per year plus the margin added by the reseller, which could double that figure. That won't be popular with smaller businesses although some will feel it money well spent for the added security.

"The first feature [of the new domains] is that they will be shorter," said Nominet's Director of Operations Eleanor Bradley. "The second difference is that we want to provide a really safe and secure place for British business to work online and for UK consumers to enjoy the Internet."

"This is about offering choice. If you're currently offering a domain name there would be no requirement to change," she said.

"This new secure domain space would boost the growth of the UK internet economy. We are aware that it represents a significant change to the landscape of internet and we are committed to taking all points of view on board," added Nominet CEO, Lesley Cowley.

Nominet has opened a three-months consultation period on the proposal and questions are sure to flood in. For instance, who will be responsible for ensuring that the security monitoring is good enough?

Nobody doubts the need for better domain policing. Up to now it has been left for the police to act retrospectively by shutting domains that have been abused by foreign fraudsters to dupe UK consumers.

A good example of this would be a much-publicised bust in which 2,000 domains being used for fraud were shut down in November 2011. That was a mere token pinprick on a serious problem and there has been little to stop fraudsters registering new domains and starting again.

Getting domains shuttered remains a lengthy process and Nominet has had to tip-toe around the rights of domain holders.

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