Anti-spam organisation Spamhaus has taken the unusual step of putting an entry for Austrian Domain Registrar Nic.at on its Spamhaus Block List (SBL).
Nic.at was listed1 for "knowingly providing services" to hundreds of spam phishing domains run by a Russian cybercrime phishing gang, called 'Rock Phish'.
Rock, paper, scissors and phish
According to anti-phishing researcher Gary Warner of the CastleCops PIRT Team, 69 ".at" domain names have been used by the Rock Phisher group since 17 April.
Until April, the Rock Phish crew favoured ".hk" domains. After the ".hk" domain registrar, HKDNR, began cleaning up its act the fraudsters started to look elsewhere. Their use of ".at" domain names has increased over recent weeks.
Although the Rock Phisher gang still uses a few .hk domains, the ten oldest rock phish domains were all ".at" locales when monitored last weekend.
The international banks being phished by the 'Rock Phish' Russian cybercrime gang on sites set up through Nic.at include: USAA Bank, Washington Mutual, Nationwide, Volksbank, National City, Nordea and Commerce Bank.
Emails sent to the abuse desk at "nic.at" were replied to by the legal department, saying any problems need to be taken up with domain owners. When Warner said that the domain owner information was fraudulent and the domains were paid for with stolen credit cards, Nic.at responded by saying it needed proof that domains were registered to non-existent persons, suggesting the inability to deliver a registered letter (paid for at his expense) might do the trick.
Spamhaus said the lack of co-operation from the Nic.at registry over pulling fraudulent domain had become a serious cause of concern to it and other spam fighters over recent weeks - to say nothing of concerns from the international banking industry. After failing to get satisfactory assurances from Nic.at - even after sending someone to Vienna to speak to someone from the registry - Spamhaus added an IP address owned by the Austrian organisation to its Block List.
Other registrars, Spamhaus pointedly notes, shut down phishing domains immediately on notification.
After first refusing to remove criminal Rock Phish domains and issuing legal threats to Spamhaus, some of the offending Rock Phish domains started to become unavailable earlier this week. However it's unclear if action by Nic.at or third parties are responsible for this.
"While many of the .at phishing domains have now been suspended and some given empty zone files, some users are reporting that some of these criminal phisher domains are still live at Nic.at, and it's only the efforts of other registrars and hosting providers in shutting down other resources that have removed the websites from the internet," explained Spamhaus chief exec Steve Linford.
Linford hopes to see Nic.at "finally acting responsibly and, as other major registrars do, taking action to stop a notorious cybercrime problem". An ongoing commitment rather than one-off moves in order to get off Spamhaus's bad books are needed, he added. ®
1 Spamhaus' listing of Nic.at is a 'pointer' only. The entry is listing ...0/32 which is not an IP address, IPs ending in 0 are never in use anywhere. So the listing is symbolic.