Dot TK, the company managing the Tokelau internet domain, is cleaning up, after .tk was named the riskiest country-level domain in the world.
Joost Zuurbier, the registry’s chief executive, says the March report was very damaging.
“We saw a decline of approximately 10% of new registrations in the countries where this report hit the press,” says Zuurbier.
At the time security company McAfee was doing the research that led to the reports, Dot TK was still using pop-up ads to earn revenue — the use of pop-ups on websites automatically leads to these being red-flagged by McAfee’s software as spyware or viruses, Zuurbier says.
“These ads were not spyware [or] viruses at all. But it was very hard to get this message out to the world,” he says.
Dot TK has now installed a content-filtering system, to reduce risks to the domain.
Although the McAfee report resulted in a decline of registrations, it was advertisers who pushed the company into installing the new security system, says Zuurbier.
“Advertisers want to advertise on websites that do not contain illicit content. For obvious reasons, they don’t want their brand linked to any type of adult entertainment or casino websites, especially when these advertisers are from the US,” he says.
Dot TK, which has its headquarters in San Francisco and Amsterdam, is a joint venture between the government of Tokelau, the country’s communications company, Teletok, and Taloha, a private company.
In March, Computerworld reported that Tokelau, still technically a New Zealand territory, had been named the riskiest internet domain in the world.
Security company McAfee analysed 8.1 million of the world’s most trafficked websites, registered on 265 top-level domains (TLDs), such as .com and .biz, along with country-specific websites. It found that more than 10% of sites on the .tk domain were considered dangerous.
At the time, McAfee said that small islands with their own TLDs remained troublesome. Tokelau (.tk) gave out domains for free — something welcomed by scammers, who often need to register new domains because older ones are blocked by security software, McAfee said.
Dot TK rolled out the first version of WatchDot, the content-filtering system it uses, in November 2005. Last week, the company updated to WatchDot 3.0, which uses Sonicwall CSM 2200 equipment, Zuurbier says.
“[CSM 2200] not only prevents users from registering free domains that contain spyware and viruses, but also ones containing illicit content, such as adult entertainment, Nazi propaganda, terrorist information and the like,” he says.
Since installing the system, hundreds of registered domain names have been affected and taken offline, he says.
“The main thing… is that [the system] will protect all new registered sites, and the people who browse them, in future.”
The company currently has 1.6 million registered domain names. Dot TK pays the Tokelau government every year for the right to the domain, says Zuurbier. How much depends on revenues, but there is a minimum amount to be paid each year, he says.
The minimum amount is “pretty substantial” and represents a double-digit percentage of Tokelau’s GDP, he says.
The Tokelau government has appointed Teletok, its local telecommunications company, as the administrative contact with ICANN (the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers), and as such has full control over the domain, he adds.
The only way to get to Tokelau is by boat from Apia, Western Samoa. The trip takes 37 hours.