Google search blocks 11 million .co.cc websites to fight malware

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Google has blocked all .co.cc websites from its search results because the domain has been found to be too "spammy." The .cc top-level domain, which belongs to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and regular .cc websites are unaffected by Google's changes, according to The Register.

The .co.cc second-level domain, meanwhile, is not officially authorized (like .co.uk or .com.au). Instead, it is owned by an independent Korean company. The firm claims to have 11,383,736 registered domains and 5,731,278 user accounts. If those numbers are accurate, that means Google has blocked one of the largest domain extensions in the world (bigger than both .org and .uk by over 2 million domains), or simply put, 11 million websites in one fell swoop.

"We absolutely do try to be granular, but I wanted to mention that if we see a very large fraction of sites on a specific freehost be spammy or low-quality, we do reserve the right to take action on the freehost as a whole," Matt Cutts, head of Google's web spam team, said in a statement. "I think most savvy search/SEO folks would understand this completely, but I figure it's better to over-communicate than under-communicate."

Google considers the Korean company a freehost, which is a domain that will let anyone register a site under it. There are many high-quality freehosts out there (such as wordpress.com), but there are of course poor ones, like .co.cc, according to the search giant. The .co.cc registry offers single sub-domains for free, and also lets you register 15,000 addresses at once for a mere $1,000 (just seven cents a name).

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) recently released a 29-page report titled "Global Phishing Survey: Trends and Domain Name Use in 2H 2010" (PDF). The report revealed that the .cc top-level domain hosted 4,963 phishing attacks in the second half of 2010, almost twice the number found under any other extension, according to the APWG.

"Google's automated malware scanning systems detect sites that distribute malware," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "To help protect users we recently modified those systems to identify bulk subdomain services which are being abused. In some severe cases our systems may now flag the whole bulk domain."

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