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What is the impact of COVID-19 on .pt?

28-04-2020
What is the impact of COVID-19 on .pt?
28-04-2020
.PT has been actively monitoring the registration of domains with the same terminology, similar or related to COVID-19 (COVID domains), since last January. In general, the registration under .pt is increasing considerably, we would even say above the expectation, however, until now, the registrations related to COVID-19 have not had a significant impact, representing only about 1% of the total domains registered during this period.

Focusing our analysis on the COVID domains, we draw some conclusions: its holders are mainly based in Lisbon and Porto, and are divided, almost equally, between legal and natural persons, with a slight advantage of the latter.

Within this context of monitoring the COVID-19 domains, .PT has been collaborating with different entities, such as the Government and other players, with formal competences in research, support or cybersecurity, in particular with the National Cybersecurity Center and the National CSIRT's Network. It is also in permanent dialogue with CENTR and other European registries, in order to share experiences and define possible concerted strategies in terms of dealing with possible incidents arising from domains within this category.

Returning to the initial question: what is the impact of COVID domains on .pt? or we can also ask: why are these domains a special monitoring target for .PT? Let us start by saying that, of the approximately 350 COVID domains registered to this date, around 2% have been deleted for failure to comply with the Rules applicable to the registration under .pt. This circumstance reveals the care and fine analysis that has been dedicated to the names that fall within this scope. At this time of pandemic, .PT is assuming an increased duty of dedicating special attention to these registrations, without daring to bring up the concept of vigilance, and taking all steps that we can, within our competencies, so that the consumer is not misled, namely as to the nature of the content, goods or services which they see to be accessible on .pt sites with COVID domains.

It is important to note that .PT does not monitor - nor can - the content that will be made available on sites with COVID domains, since its narrow action is limited to the analysis of the domain name itself. Despite this fact, the truth is that domains can be used for committing crimes and many times they are the genesis of the whole process, with bona or mala fide, and if they are being used for DNS Abuse purpose, which even constitute typified crimes such as phishing, malware and violation of consumer rights or intellectual property, an intervention is required. In this respect, it is extremely important for .PT to continue to cooperate with the competent authorities regarding these matters.

Looking at the international scenario, and starting with the European reality, CENTR recently released a study, resulting from a survey to several European registries (including .pt), from which it is concluded that the pandemic has not had a significant impact, so far, on DNS, this means that users are continuing to register domains as expected, registrations of domain names continue to trend up with an average growth of around 2%, the load on the infrastructure is well within the capacity range at around 10% and abuse levels are at the same, low levels as before the pandemic.

ICANN's perception of this matter differs considerably. However, here we have to consider, among other factors, the base of analysis, typically oriented towards the universe of about 1200 gTLD's (generic Top Level Domains) instead of a reality that does not reach 300 ccTLD's (country code Top Level Domains). In this context, it appears that, although globally there has been a reduction in the number of domains registered under gTLDs for abusive purposes, there have been numerous reports of a widespread use of the COVID-19 pandemic for launching online malicious and DNS Abuse campaigns. The most frequent threats include phishing, compromised commercial emails, malware, among other attacks. 

It should be noted, however, that as CENTR and .PT, ICANN does not have competence over illegal content published online, so its performance is restricted to security threats that affect the DNS itself and, in this case, in response to this situation, ICANN has been examining and prioritizing all complaints related to this issue, while monitoring compliance with the security obligations assumed by registries and registrars through the Registry Agreement (RA) and Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA).

.PT has also been supporting several initiatives that, in some way, help in this contingency period. To learn more about this initiatives please click here