[DBWG] Abuse contacts in the WHOIS

Michel ODOU michel.odou at afrinic.net
Wed Oct 12 12:19:59 UTC 2016

Dear WG members,

As you may have noticed, most of the time, the WHOIS does not display
the abuse contact when you do a query for an inetnum or inet6num or
autnum resource.

$> whois -h whois.afrinic.net 196/8
% This is the AfriNIC Whois server.

% Note: this output has been filtered.
%       To receive output for a database update, use the "-B" flag.

% Information related to ' -'

*% No abuse contact registered for -*

inetnum: -
netname:        ORG-AFNC1-AFRINIC-20050414

How is this supposed to work? The WHOIS used to get the abuse mailbox
attribute of the organisation referenced in the covering inetnums.
However, looking at the WHOIS DB, we have 5 organisations that have a
valid abuse-mailbox attribute (over 2081). There is worse: approximately
125 organisations have an abuse email address specified in a wrong
attribute like notify or remarks. While it is interesting to have this
information, it is almost impossible to parse correctly and to display
it as a valid abuse email contact.

There is more : the abuse-mailbox attribute is in fact present in 5
objects: irt, mntner, organisation, person and role.

It is not easy to determine which one to display as an abuse contact. To
help solving this issue, since 2012, a policy encourages the use of the
irt object to carry the abuse contact information, among others
However, the policy does not force the use of this object and so far,
only a few objects use it (125/130014 inetnums,  5/14616 inet6nums and
13/1673 autnums).

Our colleague Amreesh wrote a very interesting paper describing the
issue with many details. You will find it here :


The ideal situation would be, of course, to be able to retrieve the
abuse mailbox every time it is necessary, which would for example help
us having a webservice that would return the abuse contact for a given

From our perspective, the solution would be:

 1. Remove the abuse-mailbox attribute from the mntner, person and role
 2. Make the abuse-mailbox mandatory in the organisation object. For the
    organisations that are already in the DB and that do not have a
    valid abuse-mailbox attribute, the e-mail attribute will be used.
 3. [Sanitize the DB to add abuse-mailbox attributes on the
    organisations that have an abuse contact email specified in a remark
    or notify attribute (this has to be done manually and would be an
    optional third phase)]

For the query, the process would be:

 1. If the resource (inetnum, inet6num or autnum) has an mnt-irt,
    display the abuse-mailbox of that object.
 2. Else, display the abuse-mailbox of the referenced organisation.

Please let me know what you think about this.


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