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A Look at UK Domain and IP Address Seizures in the Criminal Justice Bill

Friday, Jan 12th, 2024 (12:12 pm) - Score 2,040
Law internet uk isp

The new UK Criminal Justice Bill (CJB), which was first tabled in parliament toward the end of last year, includes a number of interesting new powers that can force Regional Internet Registries, Local Internet Registries or Internet Service Providers (ISP) to suspend internet domain names and IP addresses used for criminal purposes.

At present, law enforcement and other agencies typically tackle the issue of criminals using internet domain names (e.g. websites like www.gov.uk) and their associated Internet Protocol (IP) addresses via voluntary partnerships (i.e. working with the organisations responsible for assigning IP addresses and domain names).

NOTE: All UK telecoms, mobile and broadband providers similarly include terms (e.g. Acceptable Use Policies / AUP) that prohibit their connections from being used for criminal activity.

The voluntary approach works well, at least domestically, when dealing with issues within the UK. But the overwhelming majority of entities that allocate IP addresses and domain names are often situated in foreign jurisdictions and, perhaps understandably, they don’t always recognise such informal requests from the UK (i.e. they’ll require court orders before suspending IP addresses or domain names).

The new Criminal Justice Bill (CJB) aims to tackle this by introducing a new power to mandate that organisations responsible for the registering of domain names or the assigning of IP addresses “remove access if there is suspicion it is being used in criminal activity such as fraud.” Such orders would, where necessary, be served internationally and thus be harder for operators to avoid.

Serious Crime and SIM Farms

The main target here appears to be “serious crime“, such a fraud, although we suspect it may also end up being used to tackle internet copyright infringement (piracy) and other lower-level things. The changes will also work to tackle SIM farms (note: Subscriber Identity Modules are the little cards you put inside your mobile device to get an operator’s service).

What is a SIM Farm? – Government’s View

SIM farms are electronic devices that are capable of using five or more SIM cards simultaneously or interchangeably, and which allow the user to send Short Messaging Service (“SMS”) texts or phone calls in large numbers over the telecommunications network.

Whilst there is a limited set of legitimate uses for SIM farms, they are frequently used by criminals engaged in fraud to send fraudulent messages [SPAM] to a large number of recipients at once. These messages frequently impersonate family members or trusted institutions, such as banks in order to persuade the recipient to reveal personal information such as bank details or passwords or to transfer funds to a criminal.

[The messages] can also send out malicious links that, once clicked on by the recipient, download malware onto the recipient’s device. SIM farms are available on online marketplaces, at low prices, with limited or no requirement to verify the buyer’s identity. This makes them an easy access, low-cost option for criminals looking to extract personal data fraudulently.

The Government’s changes essentially propose to ban (through the introduction of a new criminal offence) the possession and supply of SIM farms in the UK, which is a very welcome move, albeit one that may only have a limited impact given that so much related SPAM now comes from abroad.

Overall, the new rules seem like a good move, although the government will need to be very careful if they are to avoid the risk of unintended consequences. For example, IP addresses are often used (shared) by more than one website, individual or online service, which means that any suspensions might also carry the risk of significantly impacting innocent users.

Criminals know this too, which is why they often try to setup services or websites that piggyback off legitimate IP addresses, as used on other sites/services – shared web hosting is particularly vulnerable to this. Internet providers can help to manage this risk by being quick to adapt when such conflicts occur, but completely avoiding the risk of unintended damage, even if only a short-term impact, can be difficult. Equally, if a particular IP or domain name becomes tainted by such action, then there needs to be more clarity over how long that lasts before the suspension is removed, and legitimate use can resume.

The government’s domain name conditions also cover instances in which such names “could be used for criminality in the future” (i.e. proactive enforcement). This is said to be due to the criminal use of domain generation algorithms (“DGA”) to aid their operations (illegal IPTV providers have been known to do this too). “Once the relevant law enforcement agencies understands the DGA, they can identify domains which could be associated with criminal activity in the future and suspend them before they can be used,” said the government’s explanatory notes.

Finally, the new law would also force a non-disclosure requirement on such orders, which would prevent the telecoms / internet provider from informing others (inc. the alleged criminal) about what action they’ve been asked to take. But this may also make it difficult for journalists, such as yours truly, to uncover certain unexpected / associated network problems, such as if they end up impacting innocent individuals.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
16 Responses
  1. Avatar photo htmm says:

    “Such orders would, where necessary, be served internationally and thus be harder for operators to avoid.”

    UK law is still only applies to the UK so I’m not sure how it would change anything.

    “i.e. they’ll require court orders before suspending IP addresses or domain names”

    I wish everyone would do this. This is what the courts are for…

    “remove access if there is suspicion it is being used in criminal activity such as fraud.”

    This sounds like “guilty until proven innocent”.

    Also, I don’t think of banning of SIM farms makes too much sense. Fraud is already illegal and the criminals are not to worried about it. This wouldn’t have a huge impact. What would be useful instead if the authorities would follow the money and eventually prosecute the fraudsters.

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Say what?

      The presumption of innocence doesn’t mean that criminals can continue breaking the law right up until the moment they are convicted. If I am made aware that a website is scamming or defrauding folk I’m taking it down, I’m not waiting for a ck fiction that could take a year or longer.

      If a rogue boiler repair company was found operating in your town with no qualifications or experience would you rather they were stopped immediately or once the court case had taken place?

  2. Avatar photo Pessimist says:

    Quote:

    “…. although we suspect it may also end up being used to tackle internet copyright infringement (piracy) and other lower-level things”

    You can bet that this is the main reason for this amendment, lobbying pressure from rights holder groups

    “(these are the little cards you put inside your mobile phone to get an operator’s service)”

    eyeroll …

    1. Avatar photo SicOf says:

      Hmm, so is this to protect consumers, or corporates that may loose some revenue (possibly due to overpriced products/services/monopolies) I wonder. Another sad day for individual freedom perhaps, next step ‘thought’ police, with disregard for protecting legitimate individuals should over zealous unchecked actions result in the loss of service to your ip address I wonder. Akin to loosing the judicial protection (on analogue tel lines) of a court order being required to listen in on calls whereas with digital telecoms there is no such protection – the powers that be can snoop away with regard for individuals privacy.
      And this will require extra policing? Who cant even protect our streets or driving standards as is let alone with discretion as opposed to dumb non-contextual non holistic ‘automation’, traffic cams that can ‘only’ detect speeding, yet nothing safety related like safe distancing, correct use of lights/defective lights, or middle lane hogs?
      Police state for government cronies perhaps?

  3. Avatar photo Patrick says:

    Surely this somehow will be a slippery slope to banning government criticism

    Rumble had to shut down in France because it didn’t want to compromise its values to cater to their state censorship

    1. Avatar photo Pessimist says:

      “…compromise its values”

      right wing troll social media site has values.. too funny!

    2. Avatar photo John says:

      As opposed to leftist troll commenting about something he knows nothing about?

      I remember when the left actually cared about free speech

    3. Avatar photo Pessimist says:

      @john/patrick or whatever you call yourself next time you post

      Dude, your fav social media site was shutdown in France for promoting russian propaganda, and then announced in a strop it was leaving.

      Ya prolly don’t understand forrin languages so this link won’t educate you any further..

      https://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/article/2022/11/02/rumble-une-plate-forme-de-videos-non-moderee-est-bloquee-en-france_6148205_4408996.html

    4. Avatar photo John says:

      You live in such an echo chamber to the point where you can’t understand the concept of multiple people disagreeing with you

      And you lie. Rumble is not “right wing”, unless you call Russell Brand right wing, literally anyone can have an account. Also, Rumble did not promote any Russian account. The only accounts they promote are big names they actually signed contracts with, none of which russian

    5. Avatar photo Pessimist says:

      Hello @john/patrick

      Quote: And you lie. Rumble is not “right wing”

      Simple google search will get you this, from media bias reporting.. plently more if you look

      Overall, we rate Rumble Right Biased and Questionable based on the promotion of right-wing propaganda and conspiracy theories and false information, use of poor sources, and a lack of transparency.

      Reasoning: Propaganda, Conspiracy, Poor Sourcing, False Information, Lack of Transparency
      Bias Rating: FAR-RIGHT
      Factual Reporting: LOW
      Country: Canada
      MBFC’s Country Freedom Rating: EXCELLENT
      Media Type: Website/Video
      Traffic/Popularity: High Traffic
      MBFC Credibility Rating: LOW CREDIBILITY

      Rumble has also failed to disclose who ultimately owns the company..

      Quote: You live in such an echo chamber to the point where you can’t understand the concept of multiple people disagreeing with you

      No mate, I’m calling you out for failing to have even the minimum of understanding of what it is you are promoting.

      Like all right whingers you prefer to project your own ignorance and abuse others

    6. Avatar photo John says:

      The idiocy on this post is unbelievable. You don’t even know anything that you are saying. You’re just copypasting nonsense. And even your copy pasta says EXCELLENT on freedom, which directly contradicts your dumb first post

      First of all there are right wing people on Instagram/YouTube/pretty much everywhere. Are ALL those platforms “far right”?

      Again Russell Brand is promoted on rumble by rumble CEO. The nature tree hugger guy, anti capitalist, pro UBI, pro universal healthcare, pro tax the rich. Are you that dense calling him far right?

    7. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      What he posted shows that Canada, the country, is rated as Excellent on freedom, not whatever it is that two of you are bitching about.

    8. Avatar photo Gary says:

      Ah yes Canada the bastion of freedom which freezes bank accounts of people who protest the state, arrests reporters for asking questions (happened this month) and sends Jordan Peterson for mandatory idea thought training citing his criticism of supreme leader Justin Trudeau

      Literally anyone can post on Rumble, it’s a less greedy platform which shares a lot more revenue with creators than YouTube, who has been severely ramping up on censorship, especially on the election meddling front, by banning several podcast episodes containing US presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and RFKennedy (one of which Jordan Petersons interview with RFK)

      The answer to censorship is competition, which rumble is providing. The lockup period on their shares has ended which now means the stock is on discount, I scooped up some

    9. Avatar photo SicOf says:

      Her here, The internet by its nature was for free expression, alas some bodies dont like/didn’t reralise what this might mean until after the event (doh), after it was released, so we have censure, and arguably any censure is discrimination, and if we’re not careful we end up with automatic micro (miss) management ‘enforcement’. Just think how large the dictionary of ‘banned’ words will be, and services like pgp/tor etc, unless you’re the powers that be that will want privacy and communictions that only suit them?

  4. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    You can’t ban SIM Farms…I only bought the DLC the other day.

    1. Avatar photo Credit for the fan boys ONLY says:

      haha! We have a sim farm at work. This is not good news as it’s mainly spam we send out lol

Comments are closed

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