Directi: No Safe Haven for Rogue Internet Pharmacies

We just crunched some interesting data about rogue Internet pharmacies and domain name registrars.

As some of our readers know, domain name registrars (like GoDaddy, eNom, NetworkSolutions, etc.) have the ability to shut down websites for illegal behavior, and are contractually obligated to make sure that the websites they sponsor aren’t engaged in illegal activity.

LegitScript began notifying registrars about a few rogue Internet pharmacies in the middle of 2008, starting with about 150 illegal anabolic sites. Of the eight registrars we notified about these sites, six of the eight ended up shutting the sites down (most were registered to GoDaddy). Since then, we have had rogue Internet pharmacies terminated by a variety of other registrars including, FastDomain, NetworkSolutions and several others.

But we wanted to conduct a more in-depth analysis, so we conducted a sort of pilot project where we focused (primarily, but not exclusively) on notifying one registrar in particular: Directi, a leading registrar located in India.

In conducting this pilot project, our primary question wasn’t just about how many illegal websites we could get shut down. Rather, we were interested in understanding: If we terminate a whole bunch of sites sponsored by one registrar, how will the rogue Internet pharmacies respond?

The response has been interesting, and telling.

Aout six months ago, roughly 10% of rogue Internet pharmacies in our database were sponsored by Directi. Today, that number is down to about 0.5%, about one out of every 200, despite Directi’s status as the world’s 10th largest registrar. (Keep in mind that LegitScript maintains the world’s largest public database of non-spam rogue Internet pharmacies, with about 36,000 domains on our list, so it’s a pretty good representative sample.)

What’s also fascinating is that of the websites Directi shut down at our request, 75% of them have remained offline. That’s pretty good: a traditional concern among law enforcement about terminating sites is that if one registrar shuts down a site, it will just pop back up elsewhere. Our efforts have proven that that is not true.

But the most interesting factoid is how the rogue Internet pharmacies responded. Of the 25% that are back online, more than 1/3 went to eNom. It’s true that eNom is the second-largest registrar in the world, so statistically, we expected that some rogue sites would naturally choose eNom. However, the trend was much stronger than we anticipated.

These data indicate that rogue Internet pharmacy operators know that they can’t consider Directi a safe haven. Based on that, we consider our pilot project a success, and look forward to expanding it to other registrars.