Google’s .zip, .mov Domains Give Social Engineers a Shiny New Tool

Two new top-level domain names — .zip and .mov — have caused concern among security researchers, who say they allow for the construction of malicious URLs that even tech-savvy users are likely to miss.

Google announced the domains in early May, kicking off a slow buildup of criticism from the security community as people became aware of the issues. In a widely circulated post on Medium, security researcher Bobby Rauch pointed to two seemingly identical URLs that appear to go to the same place — downloading a zip file from a GitHub repository — but by using unicode slashes, an “@” sign, and the .zip domain, a potentially malicious URL could instead redirect users to an attacker’s website.

While a top-level domain (TLD) that mimics a file extension is only one component in the lookalike attack, the overall combination is much more effective with the .zip or .mov extension, says Tim Helming, security evangelist at DomainTools, a provider of domain-related threat intelligence.

“There’s no question that phishing links that involve these TLDs can be used to lure unsuspecting users into accidentally downloading malware,” he says. “Unlike other kinds of phishing URLs that are intended to lure the user to enter credentials into a phony login page, the lures with the .zip or .mov domains are more suited to drive-by download types of attacks.”

In the three weeks since Google announced the new domains — along with .dad, .phd, and .foo — security researchers have pointed out the dangers of

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