WHOIS is a system that is about as old as the Internet itself. The WHOIS database privacy settings are under fire by public users who want to keep domain name database privacy information under lock and key. So despite being around for decades, today, WHOIS is on the brink of becoming extinct.
Until now, the WHOIS system allows users to look up the owner of a given domain. This had both positive and negative effects. It allows businesses to offer needed services yet it is also a haven for scammers and spammers.
Thanks to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new regulation, the old WHOIS may be obliterated. The GDPR regulates how companies collect and share personal data.
As yet, the full implications of this new regulatory body are unknown, but most tech professionals believe there will be a serious impact on how security experts find spammers, hackers and Internet infringement.
What Is WHOIS and How Will It Be Affected?
By using the current WHOIS system, anyone can look up a domain name and discover the company name and address. Currently, it is the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) who manages it. Besides the WHOIS system, ICANN also manages the Domain Name System (DNS). This is the framework that changes domain names into IP addresses and gives people the Internet (as most people know it).
ICANN maintains the standards for domain name registration and handles the technical process for looking up the name. The current requirements for domain name registration and consequently the WHOIS registration, include the mailing address, phone number and email address of the owner or administrator.
The problem is that most domain purchasers are uncomfortable with having this information in a public database. This gives rise to privacy issues. Even though the WHOIS database privacy settings are now flexible, and there is an option allowing users to mask that information from the public eye. These newer services act as proxies and keep the information private but functional within the rules.
The New GDPR
The GDPR is a set of regulations that rule privacy over the Internet. Basically, it sets rules on how data is collected and shared online. In general, these rules require the consent to share this personal data. Since the GDPR has passed ICANN has been working to conform to the rules. Last March ICANN came up with an interim model for compliance but these guidelines were rejected in April.
As a domain owner, you are probably glad to see these new regulations. Although WHOIS has been very helpful it is also very unsafe. Spammers and scammers can use the tool to get personal information.
The Other Side of The Coin
For all the horrible uses of the WHOIS system, it is also a system that security pros use to protect the Internet.
A number of companies use WHOIS to track the spammers and block malicious domains. Basically, despite its misuse by spammers, WHOIS is still a fundamental tool for finding hackers and malicious sites.
Added Benefits to WHOIS
In addition to the above crucial use, WHOIS also helps individuals by informing them when their site is compromised.
What Is The Real Issue?
The caveat to the WHOIS discussion is this. If WHOIS ceases, it will solve the domain name database privacy issues, making domain names more private, however, it may also make the Internet as a whole more susceptible to Internet crime.