Funny Accents: Exploring Genuine Interest in Internationalized Domain Names

Victor Le Pochat, Tom Van Goethem, Wouter Joosen

Presented at 20th Passive and Active Measurement Conference (PAM 2019)

International Domain Names (IDNs) were introduced to support non-ASCII characters in domain names. In this paper, we explore IDNs that holdgenuine interest, i.e. that owners of brands with diacritical marks may want to register and use. We generate 15276 candidate IDNs from the page titles of popular domains, and see that 43% arereadily available for registration, allowing for spoofing or phishing attacks. Meanwhile, 9% are not allowed by the respective registry to be registered, preventing brand owners from owning the IDN. Based on WHOIS records, DNS records and a web crawl, we estimate that at least 50% of the 3189 registered IDNs have the same owner as the original domain, but that 35% are owned by a different entity, mainly domain squatters; malicious activity was not observed. Finally, we see that application behavior toward these IDNs remains inconsistent, hindering user experience and therefore widespread uptake of IDNs, and even uncover a phishing vulnerability in iOS Mail.

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Dataset: https://osf.io/s96dg/

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-15986-3_12

BibTeX:

@inproceedings{LePochat2019funnyaccents,
author = "{Le Pochat}, Victor and {Van Goethem}, Tom and Joosen, Wouter",
title = "Funny Accents: Exploring Genuine Interest in Internationalized Domain Names",
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 20th Passive and Active Measurement Conference},
series = {PAM 2019},
year = 2019,
publisher = {Springer},
doi = {10.1007/978-3-030-15986-3_12},
}