Meta is suing Freenom, the cybercriminals’ favorite domain registrar

What happened? Facebook’s parent company Meta has decided to fight the most serious perpetrators of phishing attacks against its service and social networks. The corporation targeted Freenom, a domain name registrar that appears to be involved in a web of companies created to facilitate cybersquatting.

Meta is suing Freenom, a Netherlands-based registry service that manages five of the most notorious top-level domains in the phishing business. Mark Zuckerberg’s corporation says Freenom has repeatedly ignored abuse complaints, become a safe haven for phishers, cyber-squatters and other cybercriminals while collecting money through traffic monetization to abused domains.

Freenom is the registry service provider for five country code top level domains (ccTLD), namely .cf (Central African Republic), .ga (Gabon), .gq (Equatorial Guinea), .ml (Mali ), and .tk (Tokelau ). Citing an EU study on phishing published in 2021, Meta highlights how the aforementioned ccTLDs are among the top ten domains most abused by cybercriminals.

Meta initially tried to sue Freenom in December 2022, asking the court to seal the case to restrict public access to the documents, but that request was denied and the company is now refiling its case this last week in a Northern California court.

Meta stated that Freenom facilitates cybersquatting violations and trademark violations, and it is trying to identify 20 anonymous service customers who are particularly active in carrying out phishing attacks against Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp networks and their users.

Freenom provides free domain name registration services while protecting customers’ identities, Meta said, even after the company received evidence about illegal purposes using registered domains. Freenom “repeatedly failed to take appropriate steps” to investigate and combat abuses, Meta’s lawsuit says, while monetizing traffic from infringing domains through selling it and by adding parking pages to redirect visitors to other commercial or harmful websites.

Freenom’s owners don’t just ignore complaints of abuse; according to Meta, the company’s business is essential to facilitate cybersquatting and other cybercriminal activities. Freenom has yet to issue a public statement on the lawsuit, but the free domain registration service appears to be down for some unknown technical issue.

In 2015, Freenom was penalized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for facilitating cybersquatting practices. The nonprofit organization that oversees the world’s domain registrars has suspended Freenom’s ability to grant new domain registrations for 90 days.

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