Have you ever visited a website and wondered where that site and its owners are located? Shopping sites are especially interesting because most people want to know who the seller is and where the seller is located. Casual online browsers can also be located on sites that dump malware on unsuspecting PCs, place malicious pop-up ads or phish for private information. Others may stumble across sites that push conspiracy theories, hate rhetoric, or violence that they may want to avoid or expose.
Wouldn't it be great if there was a service that revealed this information? Well, there is, and here's how to use it.
Use of WHOIS to detect shady sites
Many sites and organizations offer free identifying site information. The most striking is ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a private non-profit company that allocates space to IP addresses and manages (among other things) domain names. The service is called WHOIS and offers a long list of biographical information for every website in the world.
ICANN emails website owners (or administrators) of new sites and owners of modified existing sites with a request that users verify and update the information on all their websites. Many people ignore these emails, but new ICANN rules require that you respond, or ICANN will suspend your domain name (ie your website) for 72 hours to 15 days. Add ICANN to your e-mail whitelist to prevent suspension. If you are suspended, visit the ICANN website to discover how you can reactivate your website.
The dedication of ICANN is good news for most legitimate websites, but not so good for sites that prefer to remain anonymous. Not all anonymous sites are unscrupulous. Many site owners have to protect their privacy against fans, stalkers, professional competition or other risks.
Similar sites such as WhoIsHostingThis and Whois.net and dozens of others are just as reliable. Your own host provider can even offer this service.
However, please note that many websites use a domain privacy service (also known as a proxy protection service) such as WhoIsGuard, Proxy Protection or Domains by Proxy to protect users' private data from being displayed on the Internet. These sites mask the information of the site owner and replace it with the information of the host provider or proxy service.
So how do you discover the hidden information on a protected website? From this moment on you will not have lawful access to protected information without a valid summons by a law enforcement agency or a representative thereof. There are solutions such as requesting a passive DNS / WHOIS server (as opposed to a live WHOIS database server) with programs such as SecurityTrails, SurfaceBrowser, Deteque, DomainTools and dozens of others. These programs use different techniques, such as checking data from different datasets, studying WHOIS historical records or examining associated domains, to name just a few. None are simple, easy solutions, therefore most daily web surfers do not use these methods.
Scam Trackers, Fraud Lists and Site Blockers
Because protected & # 39; Who is & # 39; information is so hard to come by, consider considering Internet fraud detection services such as your state's consumer protection agency, Consumer Protection Agency or the Federal Trade Commission. The US government provides guidelines for preventing and combating fraud and fraud, including lists of known perpetrators.
Renowned organizations that keep this information for free include the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker, which allows you to search by keywords, scam type, location, and date. Fake INet is another free service that offers a "Scam Finder" search box. Enter the URL of a suspicious website and, if guilty, Fake INet will display the site on the screen. Scam Detector and We Scammed For You are among the many dozens of other free services.
For an extensive list of sites with hate groups, try the Southern Poverty Law Center, the White Nationalists site of Wikipedia by location or the Anti-Defamation League. If you come across a suspicious site, use these services to find out more and block them in your web browser if necessary
For propaganda websites (also called fake news), visit Wikipedia & # 39; s list of fake news websites, "Professor Melissa Zimdars fake news sites, the Daily Dot Snopes of Media Bias / Fact Check.
Install for pornography or other similar offensive sites Safernet, OpenDNS Family Shield or OPenDNS Home, Google & # 39; s Safe Search, or one of a dozen other products that range from free to $ 99 per year. If in doubt, simply search for the site name or URL followed by keywords such as "complaints", "reviews", "offensive", "fake", " fraudulent ", etc., And see what comes next.
If you want to seriously dig the dirt on a site, there are verification companies that offer up-to-date reports for dangerous or infamous websites. But these services are NOT free. For a substantial fee Entering $ 199 for a day of data or $ 399 for a period of 3 days of data, you can receive a report with the current fraudulent websites that scam internet users. However, keep in mind that most of these services are owned by companies at the locations you are trying to avoid.
My advice: use the reputable "lists" sites that are offered for free.