VeriSign Requests Greater Power Over Domain Names

By: Qichen Zhang on 14 October 2011

Ars Technica recently reported that domain operator VeriSign has asked ICANN to give the company more power over monitoring domain names, including the ability to shut down domains at the request of law enforcement. In a move that has riled up the blogosphere, the Dulles-based network infrastructure company has created an official proposal (PDF) that outlines their suggested new "Anti-Abuse Policy." According to the report, "Agreements and would allow the denial, cancellation or transfer of any registration or transaction or the placement of any domain name on registry lock, hold or similar status as necessary."

With the new proposal, VeriSign also seeks greater powers to fight off malware. If approved, the proposal would also allow them to take down harmful sites hosting phishing malware. The plan also details the company's efforts to prevent malicious activity from affecting customers with their domain names, including a maintenance option of scanning for malware software.

Members of the blogosphere have already voiced their opposition to the plan. James Connolly on Mass High Tech indirectly compared the company to Big Brother and suggested that these new powers would give a dangerous amount of authority to the government. He wrote on his blog:

Angry cop who can’t get the goods on a business owner? Federal agency doesn’t like the politics of a community group like Occupy Boston? A prosecutor trying to make hay in an election year? Those are very real possibilities, and not far from things that have happened in real life. Sorry, Verisign, you can’t be shutting people down on the whims of “law enforcement,” particularly if the conversations are coming in through back channels.

A Slashdot blogger also shared the same concern. "VeriSign does not appear to offer any ability to protest an accusation of abuse before the suspension or cancellation," Unknown Lamer wrote. "They intend to 'shoot first and ask questions later.'"