HomeLatest UpdatesCheap .cloud domains and Shark Tank fuel unhealthy scams • The Register

Cheap .cloud domains and Shark Tank fuel unhealthy scams • The Register

Scammers are buying up cheap domain names to host sites that sell dodgy health products using fake articles, according to cybercrime disruption outfit Netcraft.

The firm on Tuesday noted that purveyors of legal-but-dubious health products often run fake news campaigns to promote their offerings, often with layouts that mimic prominent news outlets. Some of the stories suggest that judges on entrepreneurial reality shows Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den have backed the products.

The fakery is sprayed across the internet, often to social media. Netcraft suggests it’s hosted on freshly-registered domain names from among the constellation of new global top-level domain names (gTLDs).

Such domains have proliferated in recent years after ICANN decided to allow new gTLDs in 2011.

Not all have proven popular. Netcraft found that domains in the .cloud and .sbs gTLDs can be acquired for $0.99. .sbs once belonged to Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service but was surrendered and re-branded as now branded as “side by side” and suggested as ideal for “social welfare, progressive, and/or virtual-oriented” entities.

Netcraft reckons it’s now being used for the health and Shark Tank scams described above.

“The cheap domain pricing on these TLDs allows criminals to cost-effectively spread their campaigns over a large number of domains,” Netcraft’s analysts wrote. “This makes it harder to perform countermeasures against cyber-attacks, as the campaign can be spread across more infrastructure.”

The firm tracks the use of the .sbs gTLD for health scams and found “a huge spike in the [northern] summer of 2023, with 1,579 distinct IP addresses hosting health product scams in June and 6,725 in July.” In some months, more than half of registrations of .sbs domains were for flaky health sites.

The .cloud domain was also targeted by health scammers, with around 30 percent of all new registrations being for sickening sites across 2023.

Netcraft isn’t alone in worrying about this stuff: in February 2023 the US Federal Trade Commission asked “Did your favorite Shark Tank celebrity really endorse THAT?” and answered “Probably not.” ®

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