A spike in the number of registered Tropical Storm Ernesto-related domain names, as the system churns toward the Florida coast, has some information security experts thinking fraud could be on the way, too.

Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Internet Storm Center reported today on the group's website that 19 new domains containing the word Ernesto have been registered since the storm gained notoriety. Of those, 18 are related to the tropical storm, and 17 have been registered by one person.

While many of the sites are parked, experts fear the pages could be used for fraudulent practices, in the same way the Hurricane Katrina name was exploited on various websites following last year's devastating Gulf Coast storm.

The recently registered sites include names such as http://www[dot]ernestomoney[dot]com and http://www[dot]ernestoweather[dot]com.

"Last year, we had a big number of fraudulent sites asking for donations for Katrina victims," said Ullrich, SANS' chief research officer. "We are afraid that similar issues may arise this year."

However, Ernesto is not nearly as powerful as Katrina and is unlikely to draw the same publicity. In fact, forecasters do not expect Ernesto to regain hurricane status before making expected landfall in southern Florida.

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