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Using WHOIS Domain Lookup Tools to Identify Malicious Domains and Prove Misuse

Presumptive conclusion or inference suggests that a piece of evidence is authentic based on other facts recognized by the law. When law enforcement and cybersecurity researchers investigate cases, they come across strong evidence that may be insufficient on their own to implicate a victim or move a case forward. However, because the circumstances surrounding a similar situation proved true, the presumption might as well be true.

Suspicious domains often fall in this realm. Such domains that enter an analyst’s radar are evaluated based on several criteria, following a Domain Name System (DNS) check. However, some known red flags—such as associated registrant names or IP addresses that a domain resolves to—are not necessarily indicators of guilt. So, how does one prove a domain’s connection to a malicious campaign or attack? Let’s take a look at how a WHOIS domain lookup tool like WHOIS Lookup can help.

How to Use a WHOIS Domain Lookup Tool to Prove Domain Misuse

A WHOIS domain lookup tool is versatile in that it enables website owners and cybercrime investigators to see whether a domain may have ties to criminal networks and fraudsters. WHOIS Lookup also comes in the form of WHOIS API, allowing users to integrate it into their threat intelligence systems, anti-malware solutions, or websites.

Here are two examples of how the tool in combination with others can support as part of domain attack identification, risk mitigation efforts, and proving domain misuse:

  1. Spot newly registered domains: Free and inexpensive domain names enable nefarious actors to purchase them for malicious use. As a result, nearly 70% of newly registered domains (NRDs) today distribute malware or connect to command-and-control (C&C) servers.

    Investigators can use WHOIS Lookup to retrieve the records of NRDs that users find in their network logs. The tool immediately reveals the creation and last update dates of a domain. And while autonomous registration redacts specific details from its record, the API still shows the domain’s hostnames, which can point to other clues using a DNS lookup tool. Doing that would reveal an associated IP address, and so the investigation can continue.
  2. Learn more about surrounding domains: WHOIS Lookup is also handy as a starting point for reverse-engineering. With the registration details of a suspicious NRD, for instance, cybersecurity professionals can use other tools such as Reverse WHOIS Search to find associated domains based on known registrant details like the name (or pseudo), contact details, etc. used for registration.

    As an additional measure, they can then even keep track of domains that a malicious registrant will register in the future with a tool such as Registrant Alert API. That would allow them to continue avoiding ties with the attacker.

Proving a domain’s ties to criminal activities is not without challenges, though. Some malware applications employ a domain generation algorithm (DGA) to produce new domains at designated time intervals so they can continuously receive commands from their C&C;servers and exfiltrate data without being detected or blocked. In a lot of cases, attackers have already decommissioned malicious domains by the time investigators discover their attack involvement.

Also, registrants can forge or avoid patterns with the information provided on their WHOIS records. Some cybercriminals hijack legitimate domains too. That only goes to show that analysts should validate their findings using a variety of cybersecurity tools and threat databases before reaching conclusions.

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A domain is always a good starting point for every cyber investigation. However, investigators must procure additional proof that it is indeed being abused and misused for attacks. IT professionals and law enforcement agents need to look at other online platforms where persons of interest may be active, apart from scrutinizing the digital footprints they left behind. WHOIS domain lookup and other cybersecurity research tools, however, can let them stay hot on the heels of cybercriminals.

By WhoisXML API, A Domain Research, Whois, DNS, and Threat Intelligence API and Data Provider

Whois API, Inc. (WhoisXML API) is a big data and API company that provides domain research & monitoring, Whois, DNS, IP, and threat intelligence API, data and tools to a variety of industries.

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