US law enforcement agencies have taken steps to combat the unlawful use of domain names that are somehow related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and they definitely had a reason to do so. Domain Incite cites a study by Check Point Software that estimates that something like 3% of the more than 4,000 coronavirus-related domains registered between January and March 5 are malicious in nature. They are used to create websites that disseminate false information, or sell spurious products that allegedly help against the disease.
A few days ago the US Department of Justice ordered the registrar Namecheap to take down coronavirusmedicalkit.com, a scam site that allegedly informed visitors that the World Health Organization was giving away free coronavirus vaccines to anyone prepared to pay a $4.95 shipping fee by handing over their credit card details. The money itself and the bank details predictably ended up in the hands of the fraudsters. Currently, this domain is not responding, so Namecheap seems to have locked it down.
At the same time, the New York Attorney General has written to registrars – GoDaddy, Dynadot, Name.com, Namecheap, Register.com and Endurance – to ask them to stop the registration and use of coronavirus-related internet domain names, as well as to take measures to prevent new registrations like this. If necessary, the Attorney General’s office recommends that registrars revise their terms of service “to reserve aggressive enforcement of the illegal use of coronavirus domains.”