SWITCH, the Registry responsible for the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) .CH, recently published an article on the subject of counterfeit goods and fraudulent websites hosted under the .CH ccTLD and the measures they are implementing to try to put a halt to such practices.

When it comes to online shopping, if the price seems too good to be true, then it almost always is. There are, however, plenty of online consumers who will still let the temptation get the better of them and end up with counterfeit goods, goods of an inferior quality or no goods at all. Fraudulent websites expose consumers to credit card fraud, the theft of personal information and also damage the reputation of brand owners by providing inferior, and sometimes dangerous, counterfeit products to consumers.

In order to better protect Internet users against threats when visiting .CH websites, SWITCH has intensified its cooperation with the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) and other Swiss authorities and has automated the processes for assisting these authorities. Ordinarily, as part of the domain name registration procedure, registrants are required to provide accurate contact information. However, in practice, this is not always the case and, where fraudulent websites are concerned, the contact information is rarely accurate. Moreover, the owners of such domain names are quite often located abroad, thus necessitating long and complicated legal procedures in order to take action against them.

In cases where the Swiss authorities suspect criminal activity, they instruct SWITCH to act in accordance with Art. 16 of the Ordonnance sur les Domaines Internet (“ODI”) whereby SWITCH contacts the owner of the domain name requesting that they provide valid contact details in Switzerland within 30 days. Less than 1% of registrants comply so, for 99% of these, SWITCH proceeds with the deletion of the domain name, thus rendering the website inaccessible. Throughout 2016, the Swiss authorities requested that SWITCH contact the owners of 737 domain names to provide valid contact address information and, of these 737, only 37 complied, resulting in 700 domain names being deleted. By August 2017, the number of validation requests sent by Switch had already passed the 5,000 mark.

Michael Hausding, a domain name security expert and member of the 14-person SWITCH-CERT team of security experts stated that:

[t]hanks to close cooperation with the authorities and improved processes, our targeted campaign allowed us to remove 4,500 fraudulent .ch online shops in August 2017 alone.” He went on to add that “[t]he fraudsters running these shops were attempting to steal money from internet users or gain access to their credit card information. By taking this approach, we are one step ahead of other domain endings, such as .com. We want internet users in Switzerland to continue to rely on a high level of security and trustworthiness of .ch web addresses.

First published on Anchovy News.