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Beyond Whois, Part 3: Two Faces of Lucy

September 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Lucy_FacesIn the first two installments of this series (Beyond Whois: The Domain Profile and Beyond Whois: IP Addresses Tell Many Tales), we looked at how there are a lot of datapoints in the DomainTools database that go beyond Whois and DNS records to help you find elusive answers to domain ownership and the connections among domains. In this entry, we’ll see how historical information can assist your investigations, too.

Lucy 1: The Missing Link

You’re probably familiar with AL 288-1. Or, more likely, you know this Australopithecus celebrity by the whimsical name “Lucy.” (I’m taking some metaphorical license here, because paleontologically speaking, Australopithecus is not technically considered the “missing link.”) This Lucy represents the way historical artifacts shed light on chains of connection; sometimes a “digital fossil” is the missing link that can advance an investigation.

investigation_reverse_whoisMany attack attribution or website fraud investigations call for you to look back in time, and if you’ve explored our offerings, you’ll be aware that Whois History is just one of the ways you can do your time-traveling explorations. Hosting History provides insight into how the domain has evolved over time, based on a combination of canonical Whois datapoints (name server and registrar) and our IP address data. Screenshot History can do the same.

Earlier, we saw how Reverse IP can show connections between domains that otherwise don’t look connected–especially if the IP in question has a small number of domains on it. Even if the present hosting doesn’t show such connections, though, comparing the Hosting History entries for domains where you suspect a possible connection could help confirm or refute your hypothesis. A shared–and “small”–IP address could be your missing link.

One usage of Screenshot History that we particularly like for attribution work is to look at the threshold of when a domain went into privacy protection. If the “before” screenshots–those taken before domain privacy went into effect–closely match the “after” screenshots, then this raises confidence that the visible owner of the domain before privacy is the same individual or organization behind it after privacy was enabled.

investigation_screenshot_history

Lucy 2: Using only 10% of our brains?

The 2014 sci-fi hit Lucy trades heavily on the old canard that “we only use 10% of our brains” (which is actually discredited by most neuroscientists, but nonetheless is a common assumption). By using only Whois/DNS data to conduct a digital forensics investigation, you’re missing out on a wealth of other information that can be crucial to finding important answers. If you’re not already using the information we’ve covered in this series, carve out some time to get familiar with the various “beyond Whois” tools. They might just solve some thorny puzzles.

Happy exploring!

 

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What’s better than the world’s best Whois data? The world’s best PARSED Whois data!

August 20th, 2014 Comments off

parsedDomainTools works tirelessly to build the world’s best database of Whois records, with coverage spanning all of the ccTLDs and each new gTLD as it comes online—not to mention the “big six” TLDs: com, net, org, biz, info, and us. We believe we have reason to claim that our coverage is unparalleled. But now we have taken it, as they say, to the next level: we have developed the world’s best Whois parsing engine.

Since parsed Whois has existed for a while, we knew we had to clear a high bar in order to claim market leadership. We believe we have and encourage you to try it and let us know what you think.

Benefits:

  • Covers more domains than anyone else—270M+ including ccTLDs and new gTLDs
  • Parses over 95% of Whois record formats—industry’s highest
  • Is highly reliable thanks to state of the art DomainTools data centers
  • Normalizes fields that vary in format such as dates and phone numbers
  • Priced competitively

The API:
The Parsed Whois API is optimized to allow quick retrieval of a Whois record, with each data field parsed out separately for easy integration into your systems and applications. This is ideal for anyone wishing to search for, index, or cross-reference data from one or multiple Whois records without having to build their own text parser. It opens up nearly limitless possibilities for domain-based research, investigations, and analysis.

Why this is important
In short, because it enables faster, more efficient analysis of the data, because it is delivered in a structured and context-relevant format. People seek Whois data because they are interested in learning about individual domains, groups of domains, the people behind domains or connections between domains. Many kinds of domain-related investigations, such as threat intelligence, incident response or online fraud investigations, depend on this information.

If you are using Whois data for security investigations or incident response, you already know that you can’t afford stale, inaccurate or missing data. While we have long been the leader in Whois data with the best coverage and frequency, we can now make the (somewhat immodest, but indulge us!) claim of the world’s best Whois parsing engine, with the highest level of accuracy and data normalization. That’s how the best just got even better.  Visit the Parsed Whois API page to learn more.

Happy exploring!

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Beyond Whois, Part 2: IP Addresses Tell Many Tales

August 4th, 2014 Comments off

ip-address-infoIn Part 1 of our Beyond Whois blog, we introduced the concept of the Domain Profile, the set of datapoints that DomainTools returns in a Whois lookup. The Domain Profile gives a wealth of information that is not contained in the actual Whois record for a domain, so using DomainTools gives you an investigative starting point with many more potential leads than a basic Whois lookup. In this installment, we’ll look at how the “beyond Whois” datapoints can assist your investigations.

First, to set context, we’ll define some terms which come up frequently in cybercrime investigations (and, with sometimes different terminology, in other kinds of investigations):

  • Attribution: in the simplest terms, attribution is the process of naming the initiator of an activity, especially in cases where the person or organization being investigated does not want to be identified. A common example is finding the owner of a malicious domain.
  • Enumeration (also called Forensic Domain Mapping): discovering the extent of a given individual or organization’s holdings.

Many different investigations boil down to one or both of these, and sometimes one serves the other. For example, by enumerating the holdings of a digital John Doe, one of the associated domains may have details leading to attribution that weren’t present in the original investigation.

Imagine that you want to learn who owns a domain that uses Whois privacy to mask the owner’s identity. If the website itself doesn’t appear to help either (i.e. there’s no “About Us” page with the info you’re seeking), you can dig in to the Domain Profile to propel your research forward. Per Part I of this blog series, start with the Whois record and Whois History to see if you can find attribution information directly. If not—and if they are worth their salt, you won’t—then a good next step is with the IP address.

By itself, an IP address doesn’t tell you much, but that’s where Domain Profile helps you:

  • You can see how many sites are hosted on this IP address via Reverse IP. Why does this matter? If the IP address has many domains (thousands, even tens of thousands), then this may not be your most productive path to follow. But what if it hosts only a handful of sites? This increases the odds that there’s some kind of connection among those sites, because a large hosting provider would be unlikely to allocate an address to only a random handful of domains. Take a look at the other sites on the IP address. Do they have some characteristic that may link them to the original target domain? If so, look at the Whois records from these co-hosted domains. Perhaps one of them contains the gold nugget you are seeking: the actual identity of your digital John Doe!
  • You can also see where the IP address is located. If a site that purports to sell Seattle Seahawks official merchandise, for example, is hosted in Uzbekistan, yet represents itself to be “direct from Seattle,” this can help characterize the domain. If you have a few domains that you think might be connected, look for a related pattern like this one, where the locus of business and the locus of hosting don’t make any rational sense. (Do be aware, however, that IP location OFTEN doesn’t match physical location, and in many or even most cases, this is normal and innocuous. Your own intuition and judgment will be helpful in this regard. A Seahawks merch vendor with an IP address in Virginia is not nearly as suspicious from an investigative standpoint as one in Uzbekistan.)
  • You can see who owns the IP address by doing an IP Whois lookup. This will tell you whether the address is owned by a reputable, big hosting provider or ISP, or a smaller one. So-called “bulletproof hosting” sites are of particular interest to cybercrime investigators, because these hosters aim to shield their customers from prosecution, law enforcement takedown activities, sinkholing, and other measures taken by crime fighters, and to circumvent legal restrictions on what materials can be uploaded/hosted. Bulletproof hosting has been home to many of the world’s largest spammers and phishers.

When you use Reverse IP to see what other sites are hosted on the same IP, you may want to use the screenshot from Domain Profile to look for similarities. Especially if the domain(s) you’re researching are known for malware or other dangers, it’s often prudent not to visit the sites themselves.

Many attack attribution or website fraud investigations call for you to look back in time, and in our next installment, we’ll see how the historical data that is summarized in the Domain Profile can advance your investigation.

Until next time, happy exploring!

 

 

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Beyond Whois: DomainTools Domain Profile

July 18th, 2014 Comments off

beyond-whoisOfficial ownership records are valuable and can often tell interesting tales about the goods–physical or digital–that they cover. However, ownership records only go so far, as anyone who has used a commercial vehicle history report knows! Getting beyond the basics of registration data can make a world of difference for prospective buyers, and several firms have made a lucrative business out of providing detailed histories of cars and light trucks.

Internet domains are no different. It’s a safe bet that almost anyone reading this is very well-versed with Whois (which used to be spelled WHOIS, in the stilted English of protocol names back in the day). That familiar Courier-font blob of domain registration information is key to all kinds of activities, from domain investment and management, to brand management, to cybercrime investigation. The vast majority of investigations at DomainTools begin with a Whois lookup.

As useful as this information is, however, there is much more that can be learned about a domain by going beyond the data in the Whois record itself, so we’re going to spend some time looking at what’s *not* in the Whois records.

Here at DomainTools, we’ve been collecting and presenting such additional data for years, and the extra information forms a large part of the structure and experience of our Whois lookup results. We call this combination of Whois registration data and additional domain information the Domain Profile (though that name is not explicitly shown on the Whois results page).

Here are examples of the Domain Profile information, the datapoints that go beyond the Whois record:

  • IP address (some domains may not have one associated with them, but most do, even if it’s just a parking site from the registrar)
  • IP geolocation location and ASN (this tells you about the network on which the domain resides)
  • Screenshot
  • Website title
  • Response code (the code the web server sends back upon the initial HTTP connection–assuming the domain has a website up and running)
  • Server type
  • SEO score, terms, GA codes, images, and links information
  • MX records (these are not on the Whois results page, but are available to you through Reverse MX)

Each of these pieces of information can be very valuable. Which are most important depends on the type of investigation you are conducting. But right from the get-go, they help to give you an overall sense of the status of the domain, allowing you to very quickly assess the basics:

  • Does it have a website? Does the site look “professional?” Does it look as though it’s been updated recently?
  • Does it reside on a dedicated IP address, or a relatively “small” IP address (one with not too many other domains on it), or is it on a big hosting site?
  • Is there evidence that the domain’s owner has tried to maximize the domain’s profile, through SEO and other optimization techniques?
  • How does the owner (or at least the webmaster) describe the web site? What are they trying to tell the world (and search engine bots!) about the site?

By spending as little as a few seconds looking over the Domain Profile on the Whois results page, you can pick up a lot of useful detail, which in turn informs your decisions about what to do next in your investigation. The next blog on “Beyond Whois” will give more detail on how the Domain Profile datapoints can point you toward valuable answers and sometimes-unexpected insights.

As always, we invite your questions and feedback to product@domaintools.com. Thanks for reading, and happy exploring!

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The World’s #1 Whois service just got better

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

whois-fullIf you’ve spent any time on our site, you already know that “Whois” with DomainTools is much more than just a static Whois entry for a domain. Our Whois results page provides a detailed profile of the domain, including summary information on related IP addresses, name servers, IP geolocation, and web server stats and historical stats on domain ownership, NS, IP and Screenshot changes.

For most of our users, this is the jumping-off point for all kinds of investigations into cybercrime, security threats, online fraud, domains purchase, domain value, marketing opportunities, competition or any number of other activities.

We’ve just made access to this information easier to use, cleaner and faster. We’ve done a major overhaul of the Whois results page—a page that hasn’t had a design/UI update in many years. Not only was our goal to make it cleaner, better, faster, but to make it easier for users to start their investigations and leverage our Reverse, History, Monitors and other premium products. Like with a beautiful old building, at some point you need to renovate the lobby to make it look clean and function better.

Here’s an overview of the changes:

  • Major profile information has been cleaned up and organized so that the most valued and used information is on top.
  • Rows that contain historical or reverse lookup information such as registrant email, Whois History, and IP address, have action buttons that let you instantly “pivot” on that data point.
  • We flattened the tab structure so that key information is visible at a glance. We’ve included expand/collapse controls for the major sections of the table, as well.
  • A new “Tools” section is available in the upper right enabling you to jump straight to specific tools, view the domain’s screenshot, buy/backorder the domain, etc.
  • We’ve decreased load time.

For details on the changes and how to get the most out of the new features, read the User Guide.

What hasn’t changed:

  • We still provide the best coverage of Whois reporting across ccTLDs, new TLDs and gTLDs.
  • We still provide Whois history back 12 years.
  • We still provide the industry’s best Reverse Whois, Reverse IP, Reverse Name Server and Reverse Mail Server products.
  • We still provide the #1 Domain Search, domain name typo and name spinning products.
  • We still provide 100% real-time lookups, every time, for paying members. For non-paying members, most lookups are real-time and never older than that day. (The first lookup of every domain per day are real-time and subsequent lookups are never older than that day.)
  • The raw Whois record is always provided.

The new Whois results page is a big change from the previous. For long-time users, there might be a bit of a learning curve. So, please, jump in, explore, experiment and get to know it. We believe you will find it much more efficient. If, after you’ve tried it for a few days, you still have suggestions on how to make it better, please send us your feedback at product@domaintools.com.

For casual visitors, many of our more powerful tools, like Reverse Whois, Whois History and Domain Search, are available only to subscribing members. If you’re not already a DomainTools Professional member, sign up for a membership or a Free Trial  to find out for yourself how much you can learn with the research products we’ve assembled on top of the world’s largest database of domain and IP information.

Thanks for using DomainTools and happy exploring!

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Whois.sc redirected to Whois.domaintools.com

March 26th, 2014 Comments off

This week, DomainTools will redirect whois.sc traffic to whois.domaintools.com. Many of you will remember that DomainTools originally started as “Whois.sc”. And that URL has maintained its sole purpose of serving the best Whois records in the industry. But as we continue to build and refine our business maintaining multiple sites and brands has created complexity. We’re in the process of revamping the entire whois experience on DomainTools.com and want to bring all of our loyal users under one umbrella.

For several years now, the whois searches at Whois.sc have returned results from whois.domaintools.com/[domain.tld] pages. It is only the whois.sc homepage that is now being redirected as the final piece in the migration. By redirecting Whois.sc we can focus all our resources on a single site and are able to offer you, our customers, a more integrated, feature rich and modern user experience.

If you are among the few that still use Whois.sc as your first interaction with us, we hope this is not a great inconvenience and that you find using whois.domaintools.com just as easy, and hopefully better. If not, we are always interested in hearing what we can do to make your experience better. Thank you for your understanding.

 

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Categories: External Articles, Whois Tags:

DomainTools Overhauls Whois History – UX Upgrades Continue

January 14th, 2014 Comments off

whois-history-screenshotWhen we rolled out our new website home page last November, we promised a transformation of our design and User Experience (UX) across our entire site.  And we’re not settling for superficial design changes, we are rethinking our UX to align with our users’ experiences and what they are trying to accomplish with our products.

One of the most powerful products DomainTools offers its members is our unique Whois History. Many of you visit Whois History every day—some, many times per day! This product contains valuable insight that can power many kinds of investigations, including researching the ownership history of a domain you wish to own, tracking down cyber-criminals and fraudsters before they hid behind Whois privacy protection and gathering evidence of ownership and usage of a given website.

Today, we’ve made all of that much easier. We’ve redesigned the Whois History UX to be more intuitive and to provide a huge boost in functionality  in order to accelerate your research. The new Whois History makes it faster for you to pinpoint significant events in the history of a domain, such as ownership, Whois privacy, and contact information changes. This will dramatically reduce the amount of time required to investigate historical changes to a domain.

What’s changed? Take a look!

  • Total layout and UX redesign—This is not mere window dressing! The new look enables you to quickly find dates with changed records, while viewing and navigating the data at the same time.
  • Filtering for fast search—Filtering helps you narrow a search and pull out those records that contain a specific bit of information, such as a person or organization name, phone number, physical address, etc.
  • Whois record changes highlighted—You can now view the specific changes that occurred highlighted within the documents themselves. No more hunting back and forth between two records to find the differences!
  • Screenshots with Whois records—Links to screenshots were added so you can track homepage changes at the time of the Whois record change without leaving the page.
  • Inline Reverse Whois lookups
  • Download and Bookmark records
  • …and, importantly, we have not removed any functionality. You’ll still be able to accomplish everything you always could—and more!

The new site should be easy to figure out, but if you want to accelerate your ramp to becoming a Whois History Power User, all the new features are explained in this help page and video link:

We are very excited about this update. Everything we do at DomainTools is aimed at helping you get the answers you need quickly and efficiently. We believe this update to Whois History delivers on that promise.

Check it out!

Cheers,
Jeff Day
VP of Product
DomainTools

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Extreme Makeover for DomainTools Website

November 3rd, 2013 Comments off

We are very excited to present a new look and feel for DomainTools’ website!  This is the first of many changes to design, usability and architecture to come.  We have long wanted to update the look and usability of our website, but have prioritized delivering the best data, scalable and reliable infrastructure and innovative products over UI as we know that access to data is what drives value for you, our customers.

We are now undergoing a UI and usability refresh to bring our design up with today’s standards and ensure an efficient and positive user experience.  This home page and navigation redesign is just Phase One and includes major improvements to design, navigation, overall site usability and support resources architecture to make our customer’s experience better.

As I’m sure is apparently obvious, our new home page and solution pages reflect a significant new growth opportunity in our business; Enterprise sales for customers in the brand protection, cybercrime investigation and ad or social network markets.  As the leaders in domain name and DNS data intelligence, DomainTools holds incredible value to companies who want to use “internet data” to know who is attacking their networks or infringing on their brand on the Internet.  This evolution benefits everyone, as new revenue growth enables us to invest more in product innovation and data gathering.

We remain committed to the customers on which this Company was founded: Domain professionals.  While a home page and site redesign is a natural first step of a website overhaul, future improvements will bring much needed updates to our core Whois and domain research usability and provide valuable new research tools and data visualization elements.  Keep a close eye on the site, and this blog, as we rollout improvements as they are ready.

We’re excited about all the work that has gone into our new website.  Check out major updates in:Home page and solution pagesLabs_screenshot

  1. Design and navigation, across the entire site
  2. Re-architected support page for better search and easier access to help, product information and best practice resources
  3. New Solution Briefs and education collateral
  4. New “DomainTools Labs” section showcasing Nextgen product innovation
  5. Peek at upcoming products IP Monitor and Reverse IP Whois

We hope you like the new improvements.  I know the new design and logo will come as a shock for those who have gotten used to our look and feel over the last 6 years, but change is good and reflects our commitment to investing in the business. Look for more as we continue to rollout updates that make it easier for you, our members, to do the research and get the information you need.

 

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The Big Business of Cybercrime at FS-ISAC, IACC and INTA 2013 Spring Conferences

May 21st, 2013 Comments off

This spring contained, as usual, the spring “conference season”.  And, DomainTools attended a variety of them.   The back-to-back-to-back conferences we exhibited at were FS-ISAC, IACC and INTA.  Each of the three conferences had sessions covering the pervasiveness of cybercrime generally, but each also focused in on areas specifically pertaining to their own discipline: the security of financial networks and accounts, the sale of counterfeit goods, and online intellectual property/brand protection, respectively.

No matter how long I have been “in this business”, I continue to be awed by the vastness, ingenuity and determination of cybercrime and cybercriminals themselves.  It is big business.  Cybercrime has many impacts starting with potentially significant financial loss, both to individuals and companies, data and intellectual property loss, brand and reputation damage, and overall network and infrastructure abuse.  In 2012, Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) published their annual report which contains a fabulous overview of reported cybercrime such as automobile fraud, extortion scams, scareware tactics and others.  It also states reported losses by consumers above $525 million, an increase of 8.3% from 2011 — and those are only the reported losses.  IACC claims counterfeiting is a $600 billion a year problem.  Any way you look at it, crime is big business.

To combat this trend, security tools have changed.  They had to.  Fraud detection and prevention must adapt at a very fast pace to keep up with the online criminals’ ever-changing tactics. Entities must protect themselves, their employees, their network and their customers.  Rarely does a week go by without some new malware, email phishing scam or counterfeit takedown broadcast in the news.

Organizations are getting smarter through intelligence sharing, leveraging best practices, engaging with social media, and employing the use of big data.   Utilizing these various tactics can make it easier to identify suspicious behaviors earlier and monitor ongoing threats more surgically.  This is where DomainTools data can be useful:  Domain name and IP Whois data can help identify bad actors, either by utilizing Whois history which can often defeat Whois privacy services, or by associating domain names and IP addresses to each other through common variables.  DomainTools has the best Whois data, and therefore gives our clients the best chance of finding out who is behind a cybercrime.  Our data helps protect companies, networks, employees, customers and internet users worldwide.  And we’re just getting started.  Later this year DomainTools will be releasing powerful new investigative tools which will set the standard for how whois and DNS data can inform critical cybersecurity efforts across the globe.  Stay tuned!

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5 Things To Know About Managing Your Domain Information

April 25th, 2013 Comments off

gear-sign-officeAll too often the Support Team here at DomainTools receives disconcerting stories from registrants who have no control over their domain names or websites.  What is entirely surprising is how many registrants shift control of their business’ domain and/or website to outside resources without building a solid understanding  as to how to manage their own domain assets.

With many trustworthy Registrars in today’s domain registration marketplace, with their volumes of Help and Support knowledge resources, it is mind boggling at times that people still blindly trust others to handle what may very well be one of their most crucial business decisions.

 

I have found that there are five basic tips that can be useful, to even the most novice domain registrants:

1. Registering your own domain name is simple. If you sign up for Facebook, you can create a user account at a Registrar of your choice.  The information fields you will be asked to fill out are pretty basic and take only minutes to fill out.  You should expect a confirmation email in order to verify your account.  Again this is a fairly standard protocol in today’s online world.  The verification email is also a great way to become familiar with how your registrar contacts you and so you can add them to any ‘safe’ lists you may have.  This will ensure that you don’t miss any important communications from them during the registration lifecycle. Help and Support information links are usually provided with these communications as well.

 

2. Don’t let anyone else register your own domain name. Avoid the “I let my sister’s, in-law’s, brother’s aunt whose son’s girlfriend’s, sisters hair dressers, cousin who work down at the docks and dabbles in web design, register my domain name” scenario. Friends and family are great, don’t get me wrong.  However, YOU should be the point of contact managing your domain assets. DomainTools receives at least half a dozen inquiries each day from registrants trying to access or reclaim their names because they allowed someone else to register it.  One day a registrant is communicating with their ‘web person’ then the next they have disappeared into thin air, leaving them with no access or ability to manage their domain asset. By choosing to use one of the more popular or well known domain registration providers you can rest assured that they will be there when you need them.  Many have 24 hour online and phone support and likely live chat with a real customer service representative.

 

3. Understand the WHOIS requirements.  All ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) accredited registries must comply with the WHOIS database requirements.  As such, when you register a domain name, ICANN requires your domain name registrar to submit your personal information to the WHOIS database.  Once your listing appears in the online directory, it is publicly available to anyone who chooses to check it using a WHOIS search tool such as DomainTools.  ICANN does a very thorough job of providing information on Registrant Rights & Responsibilities.

 

4. WHOIS privacy services are available to every Registrant. There is no disputing the potential risk of falling victim to hackers, spammers or other nefarious players by having your personal information made publicly available.  However, you (and other registrants) should know the may absolutely use a privacy protection service to mask their public WHOIS data details.  Most of the major registrars offer privacy services and if registrants. Not sure if your own registrar does? Ask and find out.

 

5. Get peace of mind through multi-year registrations.  Just before submitting the final check out button to pay for your domain name purchase, many Registrars will offer you the opportunity to register the domain name for multiple years.  This may seem like an upsell but in fact this is an opportunity for the registrant to lock in their name for years to come.  Many will offer 2, 3, 4, or 5 years registration.  The main benefit is that you will not have to worry about the yearly renewals and the possibility of missing the notification.  If you decide to choose the single year option, a domain-monitoring tool such as Domain Monitor from DomainTools can be a handy tool in your management ‘tool box’.  Access to Domain Monitor is free with a Novice account from DomainTools.

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