Google recently unveiled (opens in new tab) eight new top-level domains (TLDs) designed to inspire fathers (.dad), graduates (.prof, .phd, and .esq), and tech enthusiasts (.foo, .zip, .mov, and .nexus), but at least two of those present a significant cybersecurity risk, experts have warned.
The TLDs in question – .zip and .mov – share their name with common file formats (ZIP archives and video files) that exist outside of the Internet’s four walls, which many cybersecurity experts are calling out for being misleading.
While other similarly vulnerable TLDs have been rolled out in the past, such as .docs, the introduction of two more increase the chances of a scam or phishing attack, giving threat actors more routes.
.zip and .mov TLD risk
A legitimate website with any TLD, including ‘dangerous’ examples like .zip, could include a help section describing the process required to open a zipped file, for example. Should that file be named – in our case, example.zip – a user’s browser may then automatically add a hyperlink because it knows that .zip is a legitimate TLD, even though in our case the page refers to a local file and not a website.
While the file itself is safe, a threat actor could have already registered a website under that domain in the hope that unsuspecting users click on hyperlinks that lead them to a malicious page that could be the host to malware, phishing attacks, or other scams.
Already, a series of concerning domains have been registered under the new and risky TLDs in the hope that someone, somewhere, has referred to the file name on a web page, which will then be converted to a hyperlink to their malicious site.
While there are some steps that a user can take to be more savvy when it comes to following potentially risky links, some of the responsibility must ultimately fall with Google.
“The risk of confusion between domain names and file names is not a new one,” a Google spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. “For example, 3M’s Command products use the domain name command.com (opens in new tab), which is also an important program on MS DOS and early versions of Windows. Applications have mitigations for this (such as Google Safe Browsing), and these mitigations will hold true for TLD’s such as .zip. At the same time, new namespaces provide expanded opportunities for naming such as community.zip (opens in new tab) and url.zip (opens in new tab). “
“Google takes phishing and malware seriously and Google Registry has existing mechanisms to suspend or remove malicious domains across all of our TLDs, including .zip. We will continue to monitor the usage of .zip and other TLDs and if new threats emerge we will take appropriate action to protect users.”