Meta is suing Freenom, cybercriminals’ favorite domain registrar


What just happened? Facebook parent company Meta has decided to fight back against the most serious perpetrators of phishing attacks against its service and social networks. The corporation is targeting Freenom, a domain name registrar which is seemingly involved in a web of companies created to facilitate cybersquatting.

Meta is suing Freenom, a Netherlands-based registry service managing five of the most infamous top-level domains in the phishing business. Mark Zuckerberg’s corporation said that Freenom has repeatedly ignored its abuse complaints, becoming a safe haven for phishers, cyber-squatters and other cybercriminals while collecting money through traffic monetization to the abused domains.

Freenom is the registry service provider for five country code top level domains (ccTLD), namely .cf (Central African Republic), .ga (Gabon), .gq (Equatorial Guinea), .ml (Mali), and .tk (Tokelau). Citing an EU study on phishing published in 2021, Meta highlighted how the aforementioned ccTLDs are among the top ten domains most abused by cybercriminals.

Meta initially tried to sue Freenom in December 2022, asking the court to seal the case to restrict public access to documents, but that request was denied and the company has now re-filed its lawsuit this past week in a Northern California court.

Meta stated that Freenom is facilitating cybersquatting violations and trademark infringements, and it’s trying to identify 20 unknown customers of the service that have been particularly active in bringing phishing attacks against Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp networks and their users.

Freenom provides free domain name registration services while shielding customers’ identities, Meta said, even after the company received evidence about the illegal purposes the registered domains have been used for. Freenom has “repeatedly failed to take appropriate steps” to investigate and fight back abuses, Meta’s lawsuit stated, while monetizing the traffic from infringing domains by reselling them and by adding parking pages to redirect visitors to other commercial or malicious websites.

The owners of Freenom aren’t simply ignoring abuse complaints; according to Meta, the company’s business is essentially to facilitate cybersquatting and other cybercriminal activities. Freenom has yet to issue a public statement on the lawsuit, but the free domain registration service seems to be unavailable for some unknown technical issue.

In 2015, Freenom was already punished by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for facilitating cybersquatting practices. The nonprofit organization overseeing the world’s domain registrars suspended Freenom’s ability to provide new domain registrations for 90 days.


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