Interisle Consulting Group

Resilient systems and networks position your organization to thrive under any circumstances—to respond dynamically to new technologies, new business opportunities, and new threats in an ever-changing world.

Interisle's world-renowned Internet and public safety networking experts know that what matters most about technology is how it helps you achieve your objectives.

We look beyond the impersonal canned solutions promoted by traditional large consulting firms, working closely with our clients to find the enduring architectural foundation that unites technology and business strategy to create sustainable value. Everything we do is focused cleanly and efficiently on your specific situation—all of our consultants are seasoned professionals with international reputations, and we don't waste your time (or money) on anything that doesn't directly benefit your business.

 

When the answer isn't obvious.



 

Headlines

In Fight Against COVID-19 Scam Sites, Lawmakers Push for Domain Name Ownership Records-and Some Pro-Privacy Advocates Agree (2 June 2020)
In this Morning Consult article, reporter Sam Sabin writes that “lawmakers have begun taking the first steps to either provide relief for law enforcement and reopen the WHOIS database or hold domain name operators accountable to verifying the identities of those who purchase web addresses themselves.” Her interviews with politicians, registrars, consumer advocates, and security experts—including Interisle's Dave Piscitello—reveal broad support for better registration data access and stronger accountability for domain name registrants. “Too many domain name registrars and other internet companies are putting their heads in the sand as cybercriminals and scammers try to exploit this pandemic by luring people to fraudulent coronavirus-related websites.”


Weaponizing Domain Names via Bulk Registration (31 March 2020)
In this guest blog post at The Spamhaus Project, Dave Piscitello explains how criminals misuse domain names much in the same manner as terrorists misuse fertilizers to construct improvised explosive devices or as criminals divert pseudoephedrine to the manufacture of methamphetamine. In all of these cases, a commodity serves as a tool in the pursuit of some malignant (criminal) activity. Domain industry parties will no doubt object to such an extreme characterization, cyber investigators can demonstrate on an almost daily basis that hundreds or thousands of domain names are registered specifically for cyber attacks. Dave offers insights from Interisle's Criminal Abuse of Domain Names report and Spamhaus Project editor Sarah Miller notes that the findings from that October 2019 “emphasized the need for more stringent measures to be put in place within the domain name industry, something that the current COVID-19 pandemic is further highlighting.”


It's Not About the Internet (22 October 2019)
In the policy realm what we call “Internet issues” are not actually “Internet” issues—they are well-pedigreed social, political, cultural, and economic issues, for which we clever technologists have provided a rich new environment in which to grow and multiply. It follows that the people best prepared to tackle “Internet” issues may be thoughtful professionals in fields such as behavioral psychology, linguistics, sociology, education, history, ethnology, and political science—not (exclusively) “Internet experts.” Interisle principal Lyman Chapin suggests a broadly interdisciplinary approach to what have traditionally been considered “Internet” issues in an article that appears in the 50th Anniversary issue of the ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review.


Worth reading: "Moving the Encryption Policy Conversation Forward" (20 September 2019)
On September 10, the Encryption Working Group—convened under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Princeton University—issued a constructive and wise report titled "Moving the Encryption Policy Conversation Forward" This report directly addresses the increasingly heated debate over use of encryption technologies to protect privacy contrasted against the needs expressed by law enforcement to be able to conduct criminal investigations and protect public safety. Instead of adding further heat to this on-going debate, the Encryption Group has wisely recommended toning down the rhetoric, and instead focusing on problems where feasible solutions can be developed that resolve not just technical issues, but also conform to rational policies and core principles. This offers a hopeful way forward where polarized debate can be replaced with constructive cooperation toward concrete results that would benefit individuals and society at large. We hope this report is read by all players concerned with issues of privacy and legitimate access by law enforcement.


Exposing and Documenting Abusive Internet Behavior (29 April 2019)
Today's Internet is increasingly polluted by malware, phishing, scams, and other forms of abuse that degrade the online environment on which so much of our economic, social, and political lives rely. These abuses erode user confidence and inflict serious harm on individuals and organizations in every part of the world. Countering them is at the top of everyone's list. But accurate information about abusive behavior on the Internet is surprisingly hard to obtain. This frustrates efforts to protect Internet users from abuse, and to change the environment in positive, lasting ways.
ICANN's Domain Abuse Activity Reporting (DAAR) project is a system for studying and reporting on abusive behavior across top-level domain (TLD) registries and registrars. But DAAR reports only aggregated data on gTLD registries; it does not associate any metrics directly with specific registries, does not include information about registrars, and omits ccTLDs entirely. As such it does not give organizations or individuals the information they need to make decisions about how to safely and efficiently interact on the Internet. Achieving a safer Internet requires a trusted, neutral, public clearinghouse to collect, publish, and persistently store information that categorizes and quantifies Internet identifier system behavior, which can be used to deploy security measures, demonstrate the effectiveness of security or other administrative controls, inform policy makers, and conduct research.


Conservative abuse reporting throws new TLD program under the bus (19 February 2019)
ICANN has released a January 2019 domain abuse report generated from the Domain Abuse Activity Reporting system (DAAR). DAAR is a system for studying and reporting on domain name registration and security threat (domain abuse) behavior across top-level domain (TLD) registries and registrars. It provides a distribution of domains identified as security threats and a breakdown of security threats by class for all new and legacy registries for which the DAAR project can collect TLD zone data. But the report provides only aggregated summary statistics for TLDs, in pie-chart format; these “findings” are misleading and do not represent actionable intelligence. The report also omits registrar information. By failing to be open and transparent about the high levels of abuse in specific new TLDs and registrar portfolios, ICANN actively frustrates efforts to promote Universal Acceptance of domain names and email addresses and calls future new TLD delegations into question.

Read Dave Piscitello's Security Skeptic blog post: Conservative abuse reporting throws new TLD program under the bus.


APWG and M3AAWG Survey Finds ICANN WHOIS Changes Impede Cyber Investigations (20 October 2018)
Dave Piscitello's The Security Skeptic blog has a column focusing on how ICANN's "Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data" has affected access and usage of domain name registration by cyber investigators and anti-abuse service providers.

Read Dave's column and follow Dave's Security Skeptic blog.

 

Interisle News

July 2020
Disinformation and the 2020 Election

Dave Piscitello was again a guest on the Unsung Cyber Hero Adventure TV Network for an episode entitled The 2020 Election & Disinformation: Is Our Democracy Under Attack!. Appearing with Dave was fellow cyber investigator, John Bambenek, who is a visiting lecturer at University of Illinois. Also appearing was Llewelyn King, the Co-creator and host of the PBS Show, The White House Chronicles. Host Gary Berman focused the discussion on a range of interrelated topics.


June 2020
Ransomware Exposed on Unsung Cyber Hero Adventures TV Network

Interisle principal Dave Piscitello and fellow guest Christiaan Beek of McAfee share experiences dealing with ransomware and related cybercrime during this Unsung Cyber Hero Adventures TV episode. Dave and Christiaan explain what ransomware is, how it's delivered, which sectors are the MOST vulnerable to ransomware and why, and how individuals, small businesses and large organizations should contend with it. They also share how cyber criminals are leveraging Covid-19 to deploy ransomware and answer the thorny question, “should a victim pay the ransom?”


May 2020
Internet Infrastructure Coalition responds to Interisle's domain registration data report

On April 28 the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) published comments on the Interisle Report “Domain Registration Data at a Crossroads.” The Coalition “objects to the flawed conclusions drawn by” the report and charges that it “establishes a false framework as the basis from which it assesses registrars.” They conclude that “[t]he report reads more like the promotion of specific agendas, including on policy development work in the context of the ICANN EPDP, rather than solutions.”
Interisle stands by its report and will entertain and review any data or equivalent analyses provided by the Coalition that would influence its findings or recommendations.


March 2020
Interisle releases report on domain registration data

Internet users of all kinds rely on public domain name registration data services ("Whois") to obtain accurate and up-to-date operational and registration information for vital and legitimate purposes. Over the last two years, access to domain name registration data has been drastically curtailed as a result of ICANN policies, data privacy laws, and due to practices by registrars and registry operators.
Interisle studied domain registration data, measuring the effectiveness and impact of ICANN's registration data access policies and procedures by examining the practices of 23 registrars, which collectively sponsor more than two-thirds of the registrations in the generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It determined whether they comply with ICANN's policies and related contractual obligations, and also to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR).
You can read the Full Report, just the Executive Summary, or the Press Release.


March 2020
The business of domain names

John McCormac cites data from Interisle's report on Criminal Abuse of Domain Names in his November 2019 book Domnomics: The business of domain names. The book presents a comprehensively data-driven indictment of the domain name industry and ICANN's failure to recognize and respond to its abuses. [Note: Interisle receives no compensation of any kind for this or any other referral click-through.]


October 2019
Interisle releases report on criminal domain abuse

Interisle studied the impact of bulk registration of domain names and how they aid cybercriminals with malware, ransomware, phishing, botnets and spam attacks.
In the report, we studied "bulk registration misuse" by criminal actors. Bulk registrations refers to the practice of rapidly acquiring domain names, using these in an attack, and abandoning them as if they were throw-away ("burner") phones. These domains are a critical resource for cybercriminals. 
You can read the full report: Criminal Abuse of Domain Names or just the Executive Summary.


September 2019
ICANN must do more to fight Internet security threats

ICANN is conducting a distracting debate about the kinds of events that should be described as “DNS abuse”. The instigators of this debate hope to relieve ICANN and its constituencies of responsibility for the way in which identifiers are used to inflict harm on internet users.
However convenient it may be, it is fundamentally wrong. Harmful content itself is not ICANN's concern; the way in which Internet identifiers are used to weaponize harmful content most certainly is. This falls squarely within ICANN's Bylaws obligation to operate “for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole”.
In this DomainIncite guest post, Lyman Chapin and Dave Piscitello discuss why ICANN's remit extends broadly to how a domain name (or other Internet identifier) is misused to point to or lure a user or application to content that is harmful, or to host content that is harmful. Lyman and Dave offer a pragmatic resolution to the terminology debate: adopt a term, "security threat", that is already widely used within and outside ICANN community. Use the time otherwise wasted in a pointless terminology debate to come to terms with a remit they have studiously avoided: adopt an international treaty definition for cybercrimes and collaborate with public and private sector authorities to disrupt or mitigate these threats.


September 2019
Dave Piscitello to speak at the APWG EU eCrime Research Symposium

Dave has been invited to speak at the APWG EU eCrime Research Symposium in Barcelona, Spain. The abstract for his presentation, "Expanding the scope of blocklisting to improve risk-based threat mitigation" is posted here.


August 2019
Corroborating community complaints about ICANN's CZDS approval process

Dave Piscitello ran a simple experiment to investigate complaints regarding the approvals process for ICANN's Centralized Zone Data Service (CZDS). He applied for all Top-level domains (TLDs) available from the CZDS on May 28 2019 to observe how promptly registries respond to approval requests. The approval process should be a simple check and sign off: it is for many registry operators but for others, the wait can be significant. Read more on Dave's blog.


June 2019
Whois is lost

In the aftermath of GDPR's establishment, ICANN's policies for access to domain registration data (Whois) have created adverse consequences for investigations into terrorist activities, political influence campaigns and cybercrimes, creating serious threats to public safety. In this APWG monograph, APWG Board Member and Interisle Principal Dave Piscitello explains exactly how Whois data is employed during preventative and forensic cyber investigations — and how ICANN's interpretation of GDPR in particular also delays development of programmatic machine-driven responses that are widely used to maintain public safety and are vital to the long-term viability of the Internet as a governable domain.



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