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WHOIS Database Download: Business, Cybersecurity, and Many More Applications Explored

The Web is a tangle of information. Data is everywhere and finding reliable sources can be a challenge in the era of fake news. Websites, as a prime example, can be informative, misleading, or even dangerous.

You may get your hands on something useful or be deceived into clicking on the wrong links or downloading unintended files... and learning more about domain owners and assessing whether they’re trustworthy or with a hidden or malicious agenda is notoriously hard.

This is where the powers of WHOIS database download services come in, whose applications are multiple — ranging from cybersecurity to marketing research to criminal investigation to ensuring a top position in search engine results. How so? This white paper considers a variety of use cases.

Table of contents

7 Questions to Introduce WHOIS

With countless new domains registered on a daily basis, it’s difficult to stay informed about who owns the web. However, with WHOIS and WHOIS database download applications, this is possible. Let’s take a look at these as a starting point.

What is WHOIS?

In a nutshell, WHOIS is a suitable way to collect and verify data about individuals and organizations with an online presence. A WHOIS record is automatically created as part of each domain registration, and it includes identifiable information such as the domain owners’ names, contact details, and physical addresses alongside important dates regarding the creation, expiration, and transfer of domains.

How did WHOIS all begin?

WHOIS can trace its beginning back to the year 1982 when the Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF, first made it official as a directory service for ARPANET users. At first, this repository only contained the basic contact details of anyone who used the Web. When ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, inherited it in 1998, it started to expand and accumulate more essential data for different stakeholders.

Nowadays, WHOIS is no longer operated by a single, central database. Its data is instead being managed by independent entities — for instance, the registrars and registry operators (registries).

Where does WHOIS data come from?

As was just noted, WHOIS data primarily comes from registrars and registries, both of whom follow the rules laid out in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) along with the terms they agreed upon with ICANN. These two types of entities are responsible for making sure that their records are well maintained, accessible to the public, and compliant with the conditions mentioned in the RAA.

Understandably, most domain registrants nowadays choose to register with resellers associated with certified registrars. Many of these companies provide additional services, which include web hosting and email. Not all resellers are ICANN accredited, but the registrar who they acquire their WHOIS data from will be the one held accountable for all domain names they sell.

Registries also accept registration requests as they likewise possess a database of all domain name registration data. One of their primary responsibilities is the maintenance of top-level domain records like .com, .org, .net, and more.

Who verifies the accuracy of WHOIS data?

ICANN is the main organization that ensures WHOIS data remains accurate. It does so by requiring registrars to consistently stay in touch with their clients to make sure that all of their contact details stay up-to-date. Failing to do so could result in the registrar being penalized by ICANN, which may have serious consequences on their end.

This means that domain name registrants have to supply precise WHOIS contact data and preserve its accuracy throughout the term of their registration. Users who do not update their details promptly or purposely give the wrong information can have their registration suspended or even canceled by their registrar.

What are the Thin and Thick models?

There are two types of data models that can be anticipated when one searches for WHOIS information: Thin and Thick.

The Thin WHOIS model provides the most basic data of the two, only supplying the registrar, name servers, and registration dates of a domain. In order to acquire more in-depth domain name ownership, it is necessary to perform a second look-up on the registrar.

The Thick WHOIS model, on the contrary, provides full details of domain ownership information available within a WHOIS record, notably adding the contact data of the registrant, as well as its administrative and technical person.

What is a WHOIS database?

WHOIS databases are structured sets of WHOIS data that enable the reviewing of thousands or more domains simultaneously. In fact, raw WHOIS data, with each record being separate, is of little interest to large-scale users like, for example, cybersecurity and marketing departments seeking to check multiple online entities at once.

WHOIS database downloads, in turn, are built by third-party providers, like WhoisXML API, and their utility can be evaluated according to their breadth — i.e. the number of TLDs and ccTLDs included — and accuracy — i.e. whether they are maintained and updated regularly with the latest domain information.

How can WHOIS data be used in practice?

The Internet can be considered a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, it enables all sorts of online activities, allowing people to create their own websites and take part in different ventures. On the other hand, being transparent and accountable on the Web has also become more complicated than ever before. Almost anyone can purchase and possess a domain name — which can lead to enigmatic identities and giving scammers a safe haven to operate from.

Fortunately, the publicly available data from WHOIS can be used to reveal the ownership details behind domains, letting you know who you’re dealing with in the first place. This ability has resulted in many applications being discovered and employed over time.

To have a better understanding, let’s find out how the data from WHOIS records can be practically used today in a variety of sectors and departments.

Cyber Security: A Safer Internet

Cybercrime activities have reached unprecedented levels. The 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report from Verizon accounted for 53,308 security incidents during the year, 2,216 of which resulted in data breaches.

Organizations and the public alike are at risk. For example, Under Armour, a sportswear manufacturer, claims nearly 150 million of its MyFitnessPal accounts to have been compromised due to hacking, while the hotel chain giant Marriott has had data from 500 million of its guests stolen as a result of a cyber attack.

Individuals are also a target of malicious emails with the average user receiving 16 shady emails on a monthly basis.

How do WHOIS databases help improve cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity teams have their hands full counteracting hackers and scammers whose nefarious skills and familiarity with modern systems make such efforts increasingly difficult.

So what’s the way forward? Comprehensive countermeasures must be put in place — combining traditional and unconventional techniques. Besides strengthening anti-virus and firewall capacities, cybersecurity personnel can look into domains and their infrastructure to identify threats and come up with solutions.

With WHOIS database downloads, individuals and businesses have access to accurate data to fight different cyber threats.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Counteracting phishing Leveraging WHOIS information allows users to verify, check, and compare details of domains whose owners claim to be one entity but show up differently in the record.
Combating malware Users can use WHOIS records when they suspect that a website may have been created for malicious ends. Warning signs include recent registration dates and registrants in high-risk countries.
Scoping malicious activity Users can identify connected websites, IP addresses, and domains that could be linked to fraudulent activities by cross-referencing WHOIS data with other DNS details.
Proactive cybercrime prevention Once a malicious domain has been identified through its WHOIS records, that address and the ones connected to it can be blacklisted to protect visitors from the same or similar attacks.

Threat Intelligence: The Hunt Is On

As threats continue to rise, organizations are recognizing that investing in prevention is better than mitigating the consequences of costly data breaches. Threat hunting, or actively searching networks to identify and eliminate threats, alongside threat intelligence, gathering evidence-based data to make informed decisions, has therefore gained momentum.

How does WHOIS support threat intelligence and hunting efforts?

What are the weak links in a given corporate network? Which corresponding tools should be adopted? As an SMB or a large organization, where would security budgets be best allocated? Affordable access to WHOIS databases could provide insights for threat hunting efforts and bolster existing threat intelligence platforms.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Proactively looking for threats Real-time domain WHOIS data allows users to cross-examine registration details with sources of cyber data to identify threats.
Examining newly-registered domains Automated notifications about new domains using WHOIS databases permit implementing proactive measures, such as the blocking of dubious websites.
Powering threat intelligence platforms Users can feed WHOIS data into their threat intelligence platforms to get a closer look at the infrastructure of certain hosts.
Augmenting threat data WHOIS data let threat hunters gain additional knowledge about potential threats, enriching the intelligence gathered from other sources and allow staying abreast of the threat landscape.

Domain Registration: A Busy Marketplace

The Internet landscape is growing by more than 7 million domain registrations each year. This surge has made the Web a crowded place and an exciting market for domainers. Yet despite such a positive outlook, there are still many challenges and obstacles that these professionals have to face on a regular basis.

Why do WHOIS databases matter to domainers?

Domainers are hard-pressed to anticipate market trends and put their hands on the right names before anyone else does. However, there are other aspects to bear in mind like ensuring domains they purchase have been lawfully used. WHOIS databases allow staying on top efficiently.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Secure and fast purchases Domainers can perform the necessary background checks on domain name availability while also getting updates on newly-registered or recently-expired domains that are available for purchase again.
Valuation and safe ownership transfer Domainers can access the full history of a domain’s transactions including the date it was created, when it is due to expire, to whom it belonged, for how long, and through which registrar.
Staying ahead of the competition Domainers who have access to a trusted WHOIS database can constantly rely on up-to-date and accurate data that allows them to stay on top of their niche while performing their main domaining activities.

Brand Protection: Uncompromised Intellectual Property

What’s the value of intellectual property? Well, 3,000 trademark infringement lawsuits are filed in the US every year, and to reinforce this statistic, 3,074 WIPO cases were filed by trademark owners in 2017 through the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

How can WHOIS support infringement detection?

Disputes on domains and trademark infringement are generally costly, especially when reliable domain information is not available. Not only do they take a lot of effort to go through, but they can also result in damaged reputations arising from bad publicity and lead to lost sales and revenues.

So how can IP management teams keep company assets protected from cases involving brand violations? Here again, WHOIS databases can prove their efficacy.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Monitoring competitor moves The WHOIS protocol lets brand managers anticipate what their competition is planning through the analysis of newly registered domain names and potential launches of new products.
Preventing infringement Users can monitor domains that have similarities to their brand – perhaps to cause confusion or damage reputation – and use WHOIS contact details to start remediating the situation.
Protection from brand abuse Users can receive messages of registration attempts that contain company trademarks or similar keywords for which they own usage rights.

Marketing Research with Facts

Market researchers have been on their toes as budgets go down to maximize return on marketing investments. Indeed, Procter & Gamble saved $750 million in 2018 by reducing advertising expenditures and cutting agency costs by 50%. So where can facts be gathered to support the business rationale of upcoming campaigns?

How can WHOIS data be used for marketing activities?

Traditional research techniques are not as effective as they used to be in a digital-driven world, and they do not allow identifying trends and remain a step ahead of their competition. WHOIS databases, on the other hand, can contribute to in-depth data analysis and fuel marketing initiatives at several levels.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Recognizing new opportunities WHOIS records add to and improve the accuracy of existing business contact database, allowing companies to engage purchasers and sellers.
Having relevant information on domains Marketing departments are able to detect available neighboring domains to expand their product lines or rebrand themselves.
Staying on top of competitors and industry trends Marketers can stay updated on the movement of domain registrations, acquisitions, and other such activities to monitor and foresee upcoming trends that may affect their competitive position.

Registrars in the Know

There are almost 3,000 accredited domain registration companies present in the registrar market. Stiff competition has called for service differentiation as well as cost reduction, and that requires clarity on where the industry is heading.

How does WHOIS add value to registrars?

Let’s say you operate in the registrar market. Would you like to know where you’re positioned in the industry? What’s your market share in a given country or for certain TLDs? Are there new entrants worth watching out for? To which service are your registrants migrating or from whom have you “stolen” customers?

These are some of the questions you can answer with WHOIS data integrated into databases and track everything that’s happening with domain names.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Streamlined access to data Registrars are able to set up WHOIS APIs connected to databases, saving time and avoiding the complexity of developing the backend themselves.
Reliable domain registration, management, and transfer Registrars can use the information provided in databases to execute daily activities — checking domain names availability, confirming domain histories, identifying dangerous domains, and facilitating transfers for domain owners.
Combating phishing Registrars can help law-enforcement agencies by providing them with in-depth knowledge of domains that are involved in cybercrime.
Following best practices Registrars are able to follow up on reports from concerned users regarding malicious activity on certain domains to check on their validity, ensuring that risky websites are purged to avoid penalties.

Law Enforcement Made Possible

The current cybercrime situation is quite rampant, and law enforcement agents are never out of work. Just recently a cybercrime ring that has been accused of trafficking stolen identities was taken down by US authorities. However, not all cybercriminals are easy to catch. Perpetrators are becoming more creative and slippery than ever to prosecute.

How can WHOIS data contribute to law enforcement?

Law enforcement agents need as many insights as possible to track down lawbreakers. Having complete access to domain information can turn particularly valuable to conduct effective investigations and study and anticipate cybercriminals’ behaviors.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Getting investigative leads Agents can investigate, trace, and analyze leads to possible malware authors and fraudulent website owners who may be part of a larger group of hackers and offenders.
Gathering information to prepare cases Domain data can become part of threat data collection processes aimed to protect the public, build legal cases, as well as seize and take down suspicious domains following a trial.
Assistance during investigations Domain ownership data can be obtained immediately through WHOIS records to support investigations, locate site owners and their service providers, as well as to support communication with courts and governmental authorities.
Facilitate sentence execution Since domain records are readily accessible, officials can quickly obtain the data they need to shut down malicious domains and prosecute cybercriminals.

Fraud Detection in the Loop

Fraud levels have risen from 1.58% to 1.80% in 2018, while losses due to online payment scams are expected to reach $48 billion by 2023. That’s the dark side of business increasingly being conducted online, and it’s eroding customer trust.

What is the relevance of WHOIS databases for e-commerce businesses?

Online businesses need to effectively detect and prevent malicious activities — e.g., scammers seeking to get their hands on customers’ information. However, they don’t often have the time to monitor and analyze unlawful attempts one by one. Individuals, in parallel, may think twice before disclosing their details on a new website and completing a purchase.

Being able to perform queries at scale via a trusted WHOIS database or API easily is an effective way to intercept and combat fraudulent behaviors.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Fraud prevention Users with WHOIS protocol access can investigate a website’s validity and credibility before giving up their credit card or other online payment information.
Fraud identification Being able to flag users labeled with risky email IDs and websites could help identify malicious intents.
Fraud investigation Cross-checking information in WHOIS databases enables people to investigate suspected illicit money transfers or invoices for possible scams.

Dependability for the Financial Sector

Without a doubt, cybercriminals and fraudsters are after money — and the people who hold it. For that reason, financial stakeholders are the common target of social engineering attacks where business proposals often sound too good to be true.

What are the applications of WHOIS for banks and financial institutions?

Financial organizations must show due diligence before they proceed with large transactions — e.g., payments for services and new projects, acquisition of a new technology or innovative company, etc. What’s more, deciding whether or not to commit funds to a new business is hard for venture capitalists, private equity firms, and banks.

In these and other circumstances, dependable WHOIS information is essential to make the right moves and avoid lemon investments.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Recognizing new opportunities Investors can analyze domain information from WHOIS databases and learn more about the veracity of claims made during funding decision processes.
Better understanding the business backstage Recent changes in WHOIS data and domain owner information reveal a lot about the state of possible mergers and acquisitions, investments, spinoffs, and business liquidations.
Enhancing business intelligence Investors and banks can use domain registration data to improve their business intelligence efforts. WHOIS data can provide information on the structure and dynamics of companies using data mining techniques.

Scoops in the Data

With the World Wide Web reaching more than 1.8 billion websites and the emergence of fake news, sorting and verifying information is now harder than ever. How can media specialists differentiate themselves? Is the drop in the quality of online news inevitable?

Why is WHOIS data helpful to journalists?

Journalists need to keep up by performing a deeper analysis of content that matters while disregarding irrelevant sources. In that process, WHOIS databases can serve as an investigative tool to process large amounts of data about multiple online entities and uncover scoops.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Monitoring for new stories WHOIS database can be used to keep track of target registrants and their activities such as product launches, service developments, and new ventures.
Verifying information Journalists can make sure that their facts are right by looking up WHOIS data and, if they are in doubt, contact the entities of heir interest.
Getting the data that matters Bulk WHOIS functionality allows users to obtain and filter data in batches using custom attributes and obtain the desired results for groups of domains immediately.

Protection Against Content Plagiarism

The massive growth of the Internet has brought the concern of plagiarism to the front line. The speed and ease with which anyone can copy and share online content have made such infringement effortless to carry out — whether it’s on purpose or not. So what can content managers do then? Is there a way to put an end to entities who deliberately claim the authorship of the content they never created in the first place?

What is the relevance of WHOIS for plagiarism?

WHOIS can help content creators by providing them with the ability to perform a lookup on a website that contains their content being plagiarized. This process can reveal crucial information such as the contact details of the domain owner which can help resolve these cases.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Taking down plagiarized content Users can carry out a WHOIS search for the registrant information of a target website and then contact the owner regarding the copied content to have it taken down.
Acquiring registrar details If the owner fails to respond, the registrar of the target website can be contacted and informed of the wrongdoing on one of their hosted domains, and possibly be required to block the page until the issue is resolved.
Discovering plagiarism connections By performing WHOIS queries, users can learn if the multiple domains hosting the plagiarized content are owned by the same person or brand.

Performing Economic Research

Economic growth worldwide is expected to maintain at 3% in both 2019 and 2020. However, the steady pace of expansions for the global economy hints at increased risks that could have severe consequences in many countries. That is why economists today need to stay on top of ongoing economic changes through their research.

Can WHOIS be applied in economics?

Researchers who take advantage of WHOIS information will be able to determine the performance of certain economies within a set time period as measured by new domain registrations — identifying emerging business trends as well as assessing the geographic concentration of businesses for a specific market.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Determining economic performance Leveraging raw WHOIS data like the country of registration can give economists insights into the specific business activities that nations are interested in and their competitiveness over time.
Figuring out entrepreneurial intent Researching domains that were recently acquired or registered can provide clues on entrepreneurial developments in a country or a region.

Staying Ahead on Search Engine Optimization

Did you know that Google applied and was accepted as a domain registrar back in 2005 prior to selling its domain services in 2014? One of the main reasons for this is because they wanted to understand the domain name system better and improve their search result quality overall. In fact, Google wanted to be the top dog of the Internet and having access to WHOIS data by way of its accreditation as a registrar allowed them to achieve that.

Is it possible to benefit from WHOIS data for SEO?

Companies who leverage the Web for various purposes should take into account how their WHOIS data can affect their SEO. Search engines like Google pay close attention to the trustworthiness of a website. That is why many experts support the idea of making WHOIS ownership details readily accessible as a good first indicator that an organization is legitimate. This would imply that website owners should regularly check their data to ensure that everything is set accordingly.

Application How WHOIS database downloads help
Checking WHOIS data privacy Brands should look into their WHOIS details frequently to ensure that their information is up to date and set to public to garner as much trust from search engines as possible.
Improving SEO ranking Setting WHOIS domain records to public could improve one’s SEO ranking compared to putting it as private.
Following SEO best practices Performing research on potential partners can let you learn if they are associated with shady domains that could be mistakenly linked back to you and affect your SEO rank.

There are plenty of uses for domain ownership data in today’s business world. It can be applied to fortify an organization’s cybersecurity, enhance marketing strategies, collaborate with law enforcement, enhance brand protection, and much more.

Are you interested in experiencing how WHOIS Database Download can benefit you as an individual or organization? Send us your questions at general@whoisxmlapi.com.

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