Police to strengthen post-COVID online safety with global registry innovation

Nominet, the organisation responsible for the UK’s domain registry, has announced plans to introduce law enforcement landing pages for domains suspended due to criminal activity.

Working initially in collaboration with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the UK’s City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), Nominet will redirect web users to a secure site providing consumer advice and education for potential victims of sales of counterfeit medicines and other branded goods. 

This is the first time a national registry will facilitate the provision of trusted information and guidance from law enforcement agencies following the suspension of domain names for criminal activity. Landing pages are sometimes utilised by law enforcement globally but only in circumstances where the agency in question, for example the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, has seized control of a domain name. This is the first registry-led initiative to provide informative landing pages.

The change follows a policy consultation with industry experts, law enforcement agencies and consumer advice bodies.

Nominet’s open policy consultation process engages with a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that .UK registry policies reflect emerging threats, changes in stakeholder expectations and new industry practices. In total, 64 respondents shared feedback on how to improve consumer safety online, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), law enforcement agencies, consumer interest organisations, the financial sector and civil society groups. 

Eleanor Bradley, MD of registry solutions and public benefit at Nominet, comments: “We see this as a great opportunity to help alert people to dangerous scams, and point them in the direction of organisations, such as MHRA, that can help.

“We are delighted with the engagement we received from across the UK internet community on this initiative. Nominet has a responsibility to ensure .UK is a safe and trusted namespace. Introducing landing pages with valuable advice and guidance is the latest example of Nominet working alongside law enforcement to identify and address common challenges. Developing .UK policy is a process of continuous improvement, we look forward to engaging further with stakeholders as we implement our next steps.”

Detective chief inspector Nicholas Court, of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) adds: “We work closely with Nominet to disrupt criminals who try to operate in the UK domain. The introduction of law enforcement landing pages, including advice and guidance for the public, will help us in protecting consumers from the dangers of counterfeit goods and protect their personal information when shopping online.”

A spokesperson for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency comments: “One in 10 people in the UK have bought fake medical products online in the last year. Medicines supplied from unregistered websites are unlikely to be genuine licensed medicines, not only is this not compliant with UK law, the health of patients are put at risk. Redirecting visitors to our #fakemeds website provides them with the tools they need to avoid fake medical products in the future. Your health is important – don’t risk it!”

The 2019 consultation invited feedback on three issues: 1. Reducing the use of .UK domain names for phishing attacks; 2. Implementing law enforcement landing pages following suspensions for criminal activity; and 3. Implementing a .UK drop list to provide a transparent and orderly process for the re-registration of expired domains.

To view the full consultation response, please visit: nominet.uk/policy

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