Seltzer blows whistle on 'domain tasting' rat but serious questions remain

Summary:Larry Seltzer who I used to work with at PC Week (before it changed its name to eWeek) has exposed Chesterton Holdings as a rat that either ICANN or Verisign must deal with immediately.  The outfit for which very little information is available (it didn't respond to Larry's inquiries) is somehow spying on people as they research domain names they're considering for registration and then beating those people to the punch by registering those domain names first.

Larry Seltzer who I used to work with at PC Week (before it changed its name to eWeek) has exposed Chesterton Holdings as a rat that either ICANN or Verisign must deal with immediately.  The outfit for which very little information is available (it didn't respond to Larry's inquiries) is somehow spying on people as they research domain names they're considering for registration and then beating those people to the punch by registering those domain names first.  In most cases, such research is done  by querying something known as a WHOIS (who is?) database. 

The implication is that Chesterton is somehow gaining access to the history of WHOIS queries.  Seltzer was alerted to the problem by one of his readers who was thinking of registering a domain name that was a combination of her first and last name (eg: davidberlind.com).  A WHOIS query showed that it was available but when she went to register the domain, suddenly, it was already registered to Chesterton Holdings. She performed her query through a domain metasearch service that's run by CNET Networks (the parent company to ZDNet).  Larry verified the problem by researching some domain names he pulled out of the blue and sure enough, the next day, they were registered to Chesterton Holdings. 

It's unclear how Chesterton is getting access to WHOIS queries.  But it's clear that whoever is responsible needs to be stopped now.  ICANN and Versign (the latter of which oversees the .com and .net top level domains): Are you listening? What about the California District Attorney's office (Chesterton appears to be based on LA)?

Topics: Browser

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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