1 Jul, 2024

ccTLDs: What Are They and How Can They Impact Your Business?

Learn more as we reveal some of the most abused ccTLDs and the steps you can take to protect your business's online digital assets.
In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats, malicious domains have emerged as a persistent and pernicious force. This enables a myriad of vicious activities that jeopardize the safety and integrity of the online world. Cybercriminals love to exploit many popular top-level domains (TLDs), such as .com, which is a generic TLD (gTLD). However, a new trend in cyber threats is taking shape fast—domain abuse of ccTLDs.

The country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are domains associated with specific nations around the globe. Cybercriminals are now using several ccTLDs as a gateway to launch phishing attacks, distribute malware, and conduct other illicit operations, increasing the prevalence of web-based cyber-attacks.

To help you stay on top of the game and ahead of cybercriminals, we thought it'd be crucial to reveal some of the most abused ccTLDs and how to protect your online digital assets and visitors using advanced malware monitoring and web application firewall.

Top 5 ccTLDs Posing the Greatest Cybersecurity Threats with Malicious Domains

As the digital realm becomes increasingly interconnected, identifying and addressing the ccTLDs most commonly linked to malicious domains is crucial for enhancing website protection and online security. This forms a significant step towards the greater goal of safeguarding individuals and organizations from potential harm.

According to recent data by the Spamhaus Project, the top 5 ccTLDs associated with the highest number of malicious domain detections in the last 30 days are:

  1. .st (São Tomé and Príncipe) — 4,400 malicious domains detected
  2. .ci (Côte d'Ivoire) — 1,320 malicious domains detected
  3. .cc (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) — 38,073 malicious domains detected
  4. .cn (China) — 48,152 domains detected
  5. .ng (Nigeria) ­— 2,926 malicious domains detected
This ranking is based on a bad reputation score, which is a number calculated by taking the total number of malicious domains ever detected, dividing it by the number of them detected within the last 30 days, and then multiplying with a logarithmic factor.

Nevertheless, these alarming figures greatly underscore the urgent need for collective action to combat the proliferation of malicious domains and mitigate the risks they pose to the global online community.

1. .st (Sáo Tomé and Principle) — A Small Island, A Significant Threat

The .st ccTLD represents the tiny island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. It has become a substantial hub for malicious domains, with a staggering 4,400 detections in the last 30 days. Cybersecurity experts have noted that .st domains are frequently employed in phishing campaigns and malware distribution. This enables cybercriminals to compromise systems and steal sensitive data.

2. .ci (Cóte d'Ivoire) — A West African Hotbed of Cyber Threats
The .ci ccTLD represents the West African nation of Côte d'Ivoire. It has also become a player in the realm of malicious domains, with 1,320 detections in the previous 30 days. Cybercriminals have leveraged .ci domains for a range of illicit activities, including phishing, malware distribution, and serving as command-and-control servers for botnets.

3. .cc (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) — A Remote Archipelago, A Cybercrime HotSpot

The .cc ccTLD represents the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean. It has surfaced as a momentous hotbed for malicious domains, with a staggering 38,073 detections in the last 30 days. Cybersecurity researchers have highlighted that .cc domains are also frequently employed in a wide range of malicious activities. This includes phishing campaigns, malware distribution, and serving as command-and-control servers for botnets.

4. .cn (China) — A Global Powerhouse, A Cyber Threat Epicenter

The .cn ccTLD represents mainland China. It has long been a significant player in malicious domains, with a staggering 48,152 detections in the last 30 days. Stakeholders and cybersecurity experts have recognized that .cn domains are frequently employed in malicious activities, including phishing campaigns, malware distribution, and serving as command-and-control servers for botnets.

5. .ng (Nigeria) — An Emerging Cyber Threat Hub

The .ng ccTLD represents Nigeria. This has emerged as a new player in malicious domains, with 2,926 detections in the last 30 days. The number may seem relatively lower compared to some of the other ccTLDs on this list. However, it is important not to overlook the presence of .ng domains among the top most abused ccTLDs.

The Consequences of Malicious Domain Abuse on Web Protection

The prevalence of malicious domains associated with these ccTLDs has far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the digital realm. Individuals and organizations can fall victim to these malicious activities, potentially leading to financial losses, data breaches, and reputational damage.

  • Phishing and spam attacks facilitated by malicious domains can result in the theft of sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial data, and personal identities. Malware distribution through these domains can compromise systems, leading to data loss, system downtime, and potential ransomware and spyware attacks.

  • Malicious domains are also a major threat to legitimate businesses through trademark infringements and cybersquatting. This may cause significant financial damage to targeted businesses because it dilutes the brand value and reputation of the genuine players.

Therefore, cybersecurity experts and researchers must continue to monitor and analyze emerging threats. They should also share their findings with the broader community to raise awareness and develop effective countermeasures. Furthermore, international cooperation and information sharing among cybersecurity organizations and law enforcement agencies are crucial to combating the global reach of malicious domain abuse.

How ThreatSign! Can Help to Protect Your Visitors

Developed by Quttera, ThreatSign! is a robust cybersecurity solution that helps website administrators protect their sites from these malicious domains. It employs advanced malware monitoring techniques to continuously scan and analyze URLs and domains in real-time, cross-referencing them against an extensive database of known malicious sites.

When a URL or domain associated with a malicious domain is detected, ThreatSign! immediately reports it. This real-time scanning and blocking capability effectively mitigates the risks posed by malicious domains, including phishing attacks, malware distribution, and other illicit activities.

Additionally, its customizable security policies allow website administrators to define and implement strict rules to block all URLs and domains associated with high-risk ccTLDs like .st, .ci, .cc, and .cn, providing an extra layer of protection against these known hotbeds of malicious domain activity.

With its seamless integration, detailed reporting, and continuous monitoring, ThreatSign! empowers website administrators to stay ahead of emerging threats and maintain a secure online presence, shielding their sites from the injection of malicious URLs and ensuring a safe browsing experience for their visitors.

Start Monitoring and Protecting Your Website

As technology advances rapidly in all its facades, so do cyber threats. They are becoming more sophisticated and causing far-reaching reputational and financial harm to individuals and enterprises.

Sign up today for ThreatSign!, the most trusted web application firewall (WAF), and start protecting your digital assets and website visitors from malicious ccTLD-related and other cybersecurity concerns.