Nominet considers cutting off illicit .uk domains

Web crime

Nominet has found itself under increasing pressure from law enforcement agencies to cut off websites running illicit activities.

The .uk domain name registrar has now organised an issue group to discuss whether it should change its terms and conditions to include rules about what happens to websites helping run illegal operations.

The move comes after a request from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was sent to Nominet, which said it has been under increasing pressure to "respond quickly to reasonable requests to suspend domain names."

"The issue group will not give operational advice," Nominet said in a brief.

"However, it might want to discuss ideas related to the nature of formal requests for suspension, whether safeguards are necessary (an appeals process, for example), and what information and support might be needed from the industry for responsible officers in law enforcement agencies to help them identify when action is appropriate."

Nominet has already assisted in previous police work. In December 2009 it worked with the Police Central eCrime Unit ((PCeU) to suspend over 1,200 domain names.

The registrar said it hopes SOCA and PCeU will be involved in the discussion, alongside Government bodies including HM Revenue and Customs, the Home Office and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

Responding to the issue group's formation, Dominique Lazanski, senior fellow for technology policy at the Big Brother Watch, had issues with the term "reasonable requests."

Lazanski wrote in a blog: "Does that mean a warrant is required by a law enforcement agency? Will the domain name owner be able to face due process in conjunction with suspension of their domain name and website?"

She praised Nominet for its willingness to talk with experts to advise on the best moves forward, but compared the plans to the Digital Economy Act.

"Just like the Digital Economy Act, this proposal does not assume innocence in the face of an accusation," Lazanski added.

"But unlike the Digital Economy Act, this proposal is not codified in a law which would make it legally enforceable."

Earlier this month, BT and TalkTalk were celebrating after being granted a judicial review into the Act, which allowed for internet connections deemed to be responsible for illegal file sharing or downloading copyrighted material to be switched off.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.