The Dark Side of the .AI TLD: Implications for Brand Owners

By Tom Wells and Gabe Bonifacio


With the rapid advancement of technology and the increasing popularity of artificial intelligence (AI), the adoption of the .AI top-level domain (TLD) has gained momentum. The TLD was created for the small Caribbean Island of Anguilla but has attracted individuals and companies alike due to the artificial intelligence boom. However, alongside its legitimate use, the .AI TLD has also become a target for use by cybercriminals and a breeding ground for malicious activities. This has resulted in a 350% year-over-year increase in domain dispute cases involving .AI domain names. (Source)

In this blog post, we will explore the concerning trend of the adoption of .AI domains for nefarious purposes and how it affects brand owners.

The Rising Threat

As of January 2024, the .AI TLD had ~335K domain registrations, which equates to a 146% growth rate over an 18 month period (July 2022 to December 2023). (Source) Unfortunately, this increase includes registrations by malicious actors who use the domain names to conduct harmful activities that can jeopardize brand owners. The activities include, but are not limited to:

  1. Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals send scam emails that contain links to malicious websites that seem legitimate, masquerading as trusted brands, and then lure unsuspecting victims into providing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details.
  2. Malware Distribution: Due to its popularity .AI provides a convincing platform for cybercriminals to host malicious software. They exploit the reputation associated with .AI domains and use them to distribute malware through drive-by downloads or email attachments.
  3. Brand Impersonation: Attackers leverage the wide adoption and promotion of .AI to create domains that closely resemble well-known brands. By imitating the brand’s look and feel through difficult–to-notice misspellings of a brand and mixing a brand with a related keyword, they mislead users into believing they are interacting with a legitimate website, leading to reputation damage and financial losses.

These malicious uses pose significant challenges for brand owners including tarnished brand reputations, financial losses, and customer confusion and/or loss. But fortunately, there are actions brand owners can take to limit the impact of improper .AI domain use.

Protective Measures

As a safeguard, brand owners can take various proactive steps to protect their brands and customers.

  1. Secure Trademarks: Register domain names under .AI matching high value trademarks to showcase ownership and protect your brand from malicious use. This can deter attackers from leveraging .AI for impersonation.
  2. Monitor Domain Registrations: Regularly monitor new domain registrations with .AI that resemble your brand to identify threats.
  3. Educate Customers: Raise awareness among customers about potential phishing and brand impersonation risks associated with confusingly similar domains, encouraging vigilance when interacting with online platforms.
  4. Collaboration with Authorities: Engage with relevant authorities, domain registrars, and cybersecurity firms to report malicious .AI domains. When warranted, file domain disputes and eliminate them from the ecosystem.


While the .AI TLD offers unique branding opportunities, its adoption for malicious purposes cannot be ignored. Brand owners must stay vigilant, protect their intellectual property, and educate their customers about the potential risks associated with .AI domains. By doing so, brand owners can mitigate the negative impact of cybercriminals leveraging the .AI TLD for illicit activities, and maintain the trust and loyalty of their customers.

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