Whois domain database is in a right mess

Over three quarters of domain name registrants fail to hand over enough personal information to satisfy ICANN's strict requirements, according to recent research.

A sample study of 1,419 domains in the global Whois database conducted by the University of Chicago found that almost eight per cent were registered using completely bogus contact details.

That would equate to almost 10 million individual domains with untraceable owners, sometimes an indication of dodgy online behaviour.

The study was carried out on behalf of ICANN, which sets the rules governing the domain name system. ICANN requires registrants to provide their full name, email, physical address and phone number for public display in Whois, or face losing their domain.

The research tried to link personal contact information found in Whois with names and addresses found in other sources, such as the phone book. Researchers then attempted to contact the registrant by phone to confirm their details.

Under the most anal interpretation of the study's findings, about 77 per cent of Whois records could be considered inaccurate. However, when cases falling outside the researchers' strictest criteria – such as those who hung up on the cold-call – are factored out, the inaccuracy number drops to about 30 per cent.