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One would not traditionally associate the small Caribbean territory of Anguilla with rising trends in domain name registration and cybercrime, but in the past ten years the number of Anguillan country code domain names registered has grown 12,523%. This is because the ccTLD for Anguilla is .ai, which is proving popular with those businesses venturing into artificial intelligence.
Unfortunately, though not entirely surprisingly, .ai domain names are also increasing in popularity with cybercriminals, with London based Internet services company, Netcraft, suggesting that this is because using .ai adds an air of legitimacy over the use of lesser recognised TLDs, with consumers being more likely to click on .ai links. Even the higher cost to register .ai domain names does not seem to be deterring cybercriminals, with a rise in .ai domain names being used in phishing attacks, affiliate marketing scams, cryptocurrency investment scams and web shells.
To my mind, this is a perfect example of why brand owners should have a robust domain name protection and enforcement strategy in place, and why domain name watches are really important so that brands can spot the registration of abusive domain names early and can take appropriate steps to stop the activities of cybercriminals as quickly as possible to limit harm to consumers.
In the past year, there have been numerous legitimate AI products created (mostly from new/generic brand names), which means victims are getting used to seeing (and clicking on) .ai brands and URLs. The increasing familiarity of seeing domains that end in .ai – coupled with a curiosity about AI fuelled by months of media speculation – makes the .ai ccTLD attractive for cybercriminals.
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