Think globally, act locally - what we do to keep .nz safe
Part two of the blog feature about COVID-19 and .nz.
Last week, we shared our lessons from monitoring new .nz domain name registrations during COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand.
Monitoring is just a fraction of our work of keeping .nz safe, trusted and secure. Over the last two months, we have been working internationally and locally with other agencies to understand the potential online harms associated with the COVID-19 lockdown period.
What we do in Aotearoa to keep .nz safe
As a responsible self-regulator, we are always monitoring new and existing .nz domains for fake registration details which is often associated with unlawful online activity. At home we usually coordinate our efforts with other agencies such as Netsafe, the Office of Film and Literature Classification, New Zealand Police, Network for Learning, Department of Internal Affairs’ Digital Safety Office, the Cyber Emergency Response Team ( CERT NZ). Together we make up New Zealand’s Online Harm Prevention Group.
Members of the Group, initially established after the Christchurch terror attacks on March 15, 2019, have been working closely together on COVID-19 response approaches and efforts to jointly combat scams, fraud, and misinformation related to the coronavirus.
Within the last couple of months, we’ve also met with MedSafe to understand its approach to policing the online sale of COVID-19 testing kits.
The Domain Name Commission set up its COVID-19 information hub in late March 2020. The information hub helped to build a culture of awareness of the risks posed by COVID-19 domain name registrations and the potential for online abuse. The hub also outlines the steps DNC has been taking to prevent and/or to lessen COVID-19 domain name registration abuse and its online harm impact (DNC March newsletter).
All in this together
The Domain Name Commission doesn’t regulate content issues. Our .nz policy framework, currently under review, doesn’t allow it, and we also have no control over the content on websites or in emails associated with .nz domain names.
However, it does not mean we are unaware or unconcerned about those who use the .nz domain namespace to cause harm and take advantage of New Zealanders.
We closely cooperate with Online Harm Prevention Group members to respond to COVID-19 related abuse.
Many of our .nz authorised registrars are supporting measures against DNS abuse and website content abuse. Registrars are working cooperatively with CERT NZ and the Hi-Tech Crime division of New Zealand Police to protect the DNS from those who try to exploit .nz domain names maliciously and unlawfully.
Our collective role has become essential to guard against fraud, stymie the flow of scams, and tackle online misinformation.
Here is just a summary snapshot of some of the steps DNC has taken to keep .nz safe since the arrival of COVID-19 into New Zealand:
suspended 102 of COVID-19 related .nz domain names
ramped up our WHOIS compliance efforts manually checking more than 500 domain name registrations per day
worked with more than 80 .nz authorised registrars to ensure compliance with .nz authorisation contracts and .nz policies
built a COVID-19 specific threat intelligence feed for .nz in less than four weeks, with our trusted threat intelligence partner
planned for a significant amount of compliance data quality work regarding data legacy in the .nz domain name space for quarter two of this financial year.
promoted online safety messages through our Fake webshop online educational tool.
Thinking globally but acting locally to make .nz safer
In March 2020, the Commission joined registries, security experts, law enforcement, Internet engineers, and others in the COVID-19 Cyber Threat Coalition. The CTC’s mission is to operate the largest professional-quality threat lab.
We have also stepped up our involvement in the Internet and Jurisdiction Policy Network of which together with InternetNZ we have been a past sponsor and active member over the last three years. This Network consists of more than 300 key entities from over 50 countries seeking to address the tension between cross border Internet and national jurisdictions. Watch the video from Executive Director Bertrand de La Chapelle explaining how the I&JPN Secretariat Framing Briefs can help actors analyse some of the complex policy issues related to online harm minimisation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April 2020, on the back of global media reports that the coronavirus pandemic may lead to a spike in reports of child sexual exploitation material on the Internet, we became a new member of the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK Charity. Through our membership we receive an accurate and current .nz domains list that helps our MOU partner, the Department of Internal Affairs’ Digital Safety Office to rid the .nz domain name space of child sexual abuse material online.
Since the country went into lockdown we’ve managed to combat any big upswing in registrations of COVID-19 related .nz domain names and associated with them email and website scams and other illegal activity.
The majority of New Zealand registrants are continuing to act responsibly and register .nz domain names to promote an Internet for good.
We are helping globally and locally in the ways we know best and we know we will need to remain flexible and ready to play our part in the coming year to keep .nz safe.