Internet authorities in Cameroon, the West African nation that owns the ".cm" top level domain (TLD), have been accused of authorising a DNS wildcard that has the effect of redirecting all accidental .cm traffic instead of returning an error.
The accusation comes from an American attorney, John Berryhill, who on Saturday wrote on the Internet infrastructure blog CircleID: "The .cm (Cameroon) ccTLD operators have discovered that since their TLD is simply one omitted letter away from .com, that there is a gold mine in the typo traffic that comes their way. Accordingly, Cameroon has now wild-carded its ccTLD and is monetizing the traffic."
As a result, any misspelling of a ".com" domain name as ".cm" returns a page full of advertisements.
Aside from being an annoyance, the redirection can fool automatic checks set up to detect incorrect URLs, which should ordinarily return an error message if requested. Such checks are commonly used in spam detection and other security tasks.
A similar problem arose in 2003 when Verisign, the registry for the .com and .net TLDs, redirected all non-existent domain names with those extensions to a search service called Site Finder. That controversy resulted in ICANN, the body that oversees Internet protocols, forcing Verisign to shut down Site Finder.
ICANN did not immediately respond to requests for comment; nor did Cameroon Telecommunications, the country's Internet registry.