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How a Tiny Pacific Island Became the Global Capital of Cybercrime

 |  November 27, 2023

Jacob Judah (MIT Technology Review)

In a remote corner of the Pacific lies Tokelau, a trio of isolated atolls that remained untouched by modern telecommunications until 1997, making it the final spot on Earth to be connected to the telephone. In this piece, Jacob Judah, writing for MIT Technology Review, recounts an intriguing turn of events just three years after Tokelau’s technological leap.

Joost Zuurbier, an early internet entrepreneur hailing from Amsterdam, approached the islands with an unconventional business proposal in the form of a fax. This proposal aimed at managing Tokelau’s country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) — the concise string of characters appended to the end of a URL. Until then, Tokelau, officially a territory of New Zealand, was unaware of its assigned ccTLD.

Aukusitino Vitale, then the general manager of Teletok, Tokelau’s sole telecom operator, vividly recalls the moment when they stumbled upon the existence of “.tk.” Little did they know that this seemingly innocuous discovery would mark a significant turning point for the isolated atolls…