|The Internet is growing as significant source of news for journalists. However, the Net has a lot of material that are unreliable. Much depends on who has put the material on the Web. So, it becomes imperative for the journalist, at times, to verify the ownership of the Internet domains or I. P. Addresses. Sometimes, these checks have to be made even in the case of supposedly authentic sites. Here are some tips for doing that.||
Assignees of Internet addresses
The Internet address uniquely identifies the node connecting a network to the Internet. So, by finding the name of the assignee of the address, one can generally get an idea about the ownership of the network. There are currently three agencies who assign IP addresses to users. They are the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the European, Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC). These agencies maintain databases which can be searched to find information about the assignees of IP addresses (E.g.. APNIC Whois search). Their Web sites provide detailed instructions on searching the databases for information.
However, IP addresses, which are a combination of four sets of numbers separated by dots, may not be commonly known. If you know domain of a site, you can find the IP address using a DOS program called TRACERT.EXE which you may find in your Windows directory or the Windows CD. (The domain of a site is the part of the Web address that appears between the double slashes and the first single slash. If a colon and a number appears towards the end of it, ignore that. For example, in http://pages.hotbot.com:80/directorypath/file.html, pages.hotbot.com is the domain name. Another example of a domain is www.vsnl.net.in. Domain names are not case sensitive. However, other parts of a Web address could be case sensitive).
For using TRACERT, get connected to the net. If you are using Windows, go to the DOS prompt. Type the following at the prompt to find the IP address of hotbot.com.Country codes
The program will resolve the domain name into its IP address equivalent and trace the route to the network. You will get a display of the IP address with domain names and IP addresses of networks encountered along the route. The response time in milliseconds at each stage would also be displayed. (The program is a good tool for finding bottlenecks along the route to a particular site).
The programme can also be used to find the domain name, if the IP address is known. Eg.:
TRACERT 188.8.131.52 will bring you the domain name mail.his.com (click here to see result).
An IP address is some times used to host many domains. This is called virtual hosting. In such cases, the IP addresses returned for more than one domain will be the same.
Once you have found out the IP address, you can look up information on its registrant in the databases maintained by the registering agencies. If you are looking for information relating to an IP address in Asia Pacific region, for example, go to the the APNIC Whois search and enter the IP address (numerals and dots only) in the search dialog.
In case you do not the know the region, you can find information on registries and their jurisdiction at the APNIC and other sites. Geographical location of the Web server having the IP address can be found using the IP address locator at Geobytes.
The two letters appearing at the end of domain names outside the U.S. is an indication of the region or country to which it belongs. In other words, the country code top level domain, as the two letter code is called, points to the country in which the domain is registered. For example, .IN refers to India and .PK to Pakistan. (Strictly speaking, a country code is recognised as a top level domain only when it is registered with the US Network Information Centre, InterNIC. Country codes are derived from the International Organization for Standardization standard, ISO 3166). A detailed listing of these country codes can be found at the APNIC (see Countries within the APNIC realm) and several other sites.Who own the domains
In the U. S., a country code was not generally in use until recently. (The States use it in conjunction with their two letter codes). The country mostly used generic top level domains such as .com (refers to commercial companies), .org (refers to non-profit organisations), .net (used by network service providers), .gov (exclusively reserved for the US Government establishments) .mil (exclusively reserved for US military) and .edu (reserved for educational institutions). Now, new top level domains such as .info (suitable for general information Web sites) and .biz (denoting business) have also become available. All these generic top level domains have assumed an international character now as they can be registered by anyone from any where in the world.
In many cases journalists would want to know the registrant of the domain rather that the owner of the node or the assignee of the IP address. The IP address and the domain names are often registered by separate agencies.
In the U. S., the Department of Commerce's Network Information Centre (InterNIC) used to do it in association with Network Solutions Inc (NSI). Now, other private agencies, including those from outside the United States, have entered the field. However, the combined database on the registered domains is being maintained by the NSI. The Network Solutions' Web interface to whois will let you search this database. Even reverse searches are possible-- that is, you can enter the name of a person to find out the Internet domains standing in his name.
Another interface, which uses the same database, is maintained by Register.com. Here you can enter a domain name (without the top level domain) to find out whether somebody has registered it with a .com, .org or .net extension. If it has been registered, you can click the returned link(s) to find out who is the registrant and related details. Click here to see the results of search for registrants of www.keralagov.com and www.soniagandhionline.com.
If you are sure that a domain exists, you can do a direct search using the following syntax on the browser dialog box. (The example given below shows search syntax for getting registration details of www.soniagandhionline.com).
http://register.com/whois-results.cgi?domain=soniagandhionline.com (Update: Note that the domains have since changed hands. Current results vary from results stored on this site.)
The result (obtained at the time of writing this article) shows that the domain is registered in the name of another domain, triumfo.com. So, you may have to search further for information on triumfo.com or visit the site itself to find more about the people behind the soniagandhionline site. In fact, a search on triumfo.com turn up information on a number of domains belonging to the group, and you will have to do a specific search to find out more about any of the domains listed. (See result). For this, you have to enter the code name (handle), returned by the search engine within brackets, in the search dialog box preceded by an exclamation mark. In case of companies, a search of the dotcom directory, maintained by Network Solutions, would bring up more information.
Information on who have registered other soniagandhi domains:. Entering the single word soniagandhi at the search dialog box of register.com will bring up the information that soniagandhi.com, soniagandhi.org, soniagandhi.net have been registered by private individuals or agencies. Click the links in the search results to get details about the registrants. It is possible that some such registrant has not actually set up a site. So, you would not find that on the Web.
There are a number of sites offering domain name searches these days. Marks Online and Checkdomain and Domain Tools are three of them. Marks online is good at searching with wild cards. A search for Sonia* yielded 74 domains with the Sonia name though all were not related to Sonia Gandhi. One private firm was found to have registered a number of them. Checkdomain also supports wild cards (See result captured in 1999). It offers better support for search for domains registered outside the U. S. (Update: Marks Online service has been discontinued.)
You can find information on even deleted domains at Whois.net. You can also try Whois Source and Better whois. Basic who is search tools, trace route and tools for advanced users can be found at Sam Spade. (Update: This service is currently not working!) The tools include those helpful in tracing of spam and E-mails of suspicious origin. Centralops.net offers advanced Internet utilities.
In January 2003, the Public Interest Registry (PIR) assumed responsibility for operating .org registry and maintaining the authoritative database of all .org domain names. The whois search is at pir.org/whois
As the Kerala Government's Web site is registered in the U. S., one can get information about the registrant of the domain from register.com itself. (Checkdomain describes the Kerala Government site as a commercial domain as it has a .com extension: see result). For domains registered in other countries, one has to search the databases maintained by respective Internet registries. (In case of several countries, the databases are not available online). Uninett of Norway is a good source for information on top level domains and registries.
In India, the official Registry is now run by National Internet eXchange of India and private companies have been given accreditation as registrars. The following are the categories available under country code .IN: (The first part of the names such as .CO is referred to as second level sub domain).
CO.IN Registered Companies/Trademarks/Banks
FIRM.IN Proprietary Concerns/Partnership Firms/Shops/Liaison Offices
AC.IN Academic Community
RES.IN Research Institutes
GOV.IN Government Organisations
MIL.IN Military Establishments
NET.IN Network/Internet Service Providers
.IN Internet Service Providers
ORG.IN Non-profit Organisations
In addition, two more categories, .IND.IN for individuals and .GEN.IN for General/Miscellaneous Purposes, are available. These two can be registered by people from anywhere in the world. Besides, two second level sub domains ERNET for the academic and research network, NIC for the government's network. are available on an exclusive basis with country code .IN (ie; ernet.in and nic.in).
Gov.in domains are being registered by the National Informatics Centre and
ac.in, edu.in & res.in domains by ERNET.
The advanced whois search is at http://www.inregistry.in/whois_search/
For sites registered in the U. K., a database is available online from the Nominet. As to countries in the Asia Pacific region, information about the regional registries can be found at the APNIC site. Both Register.com and HIS WHOIS Gateway support search of databases of some regional registries such as that of the United. Kingdom. and New Zealand. While you enter the full domain name for search at Whois gateway, Register.com require you to indicate the top level domain by ticking the appropriate box.Updates
The Domain Name Registration System is currently undergoing certain changes. This might lead to changes in the national and international arrangements for registering of domains. Information on these developments can be obtained from the following sites:
Internet Governance Information Service
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)
Network Startup Resource Center
The site listed last is a good source of information on country codes. Updated information on country codes can also be obtained by E-mail from those running the site. For this, send an E-mail to: <firstname.lastname@example.org> with a subject archive-server-request and the command get mail/country-codes in the body of your message.
| Note: Sometimes, a search may fail to show an
existing registered domain. So, it is advisable to try more
than one search site.
* The ownership of Keralagov.com was transferred to the Government agency, C-DIT, in December 1999. This was dropped by C-DIT three years later after the Government acquired the appropriate domain, Kerala.gov.in