How to protect your domain name from hijackers, porn pirates, and
Is your domain
really safe? If you are not prepared, there are a number
of common mistakes which can result in the permanent loss of your
domain. Owners of multiple domain names are particularly at risk.
This article explains the most common ways that domains are lost and
gives specific advice on how to safeguard your names.
As a domain owner,
you should be aware of and protect yourself against the following
Inadvertent domain expiration:
The owner does not renew the name in time and it is snatched up by
a domain speculator. This is often caused by failure to receive renewal
notices because of out of date contact information.
no longer send out renewal notices via postal mail. This
means that if your e-mail address is out of date, you will not receive
renewal notices. This problem is further compounded by your registrar's
inability to warn you that your domain is about to be deleted.
Once deleted, domains
are commonly snatched up within seconds by speculators running automated
programs. Some speculators offer to sell them back to the
original owners for greatly inflated prices, others point the domain
to a money making web site hoping to capitalize on the domain's traffic.
This is one of the reasons that so many expired
domain names now point to pornographic web sites. [PC
World: Porn Sites Hijack Expired Domains, ABC
News: Taken over by Porn, Wired
News: Sites Forlorn When Reborn as Porn]
Domain hijacking or theft:
A domain hijacker effectively 'steals' the domain by submitting a
fraudulent registrar transfer request and tricking an unsophisticated
domain owner or registrar into giving them control of the name.
Once the hijacker has control
of the name, they will usually assume ownership of the domain and
start redirecting it to their own web sites. It is also quite common
for hijackers to ransom off domain names and redirect traffic to explicit
web sites (both for profit and shock value).
At this point,
legal options can be expensive and time consuming. Since
the domain has been transferred away from the domain owner's original
registrar, this registrar is often powerless in assisting. Domain
hijackers are aware of this and commonly transfer domains to countries
far away from the original owner - making legal recourse cost prohibitive.
Inaccurate contact information: Did you know
that your name can be cancelled if your domain information is not
accurate and you fail to respond to a registrar's inquiries within
fifteen days? (Section 220.127.116.11 of ICANN's Registrar Accreditation
Agreement). In the past, this section was seldom enforced, however
as of October 2003, ICANN is requiring all registrars to contact their
customers on a yearly basis to verify domain information.
It is too soon to tell
how aggressively this section will now be enforced, however if your
information has changed and you have not taken the time to update
it, your domains may be at risk of being deleted.
How to protect yourself...
Keep track of your domain names' expiration dates and keep your contact
information up to date:
domain expirations and many fraudulent transfers are due to out of
date contact information.
you have more than one domain, consider consolidating your names
with a registrar who offers domain portfolio management features.
This will allow you to use one master account to see all of your domain
names (and their expiration dates) at a glance, as well as make changes
to all of your domains at once. Some registrars are now offering free
options such as automatic expiration date tracking and auto-renewal
as additional safeguards. Before consolidating, be sure to read our
free report on domain consolidation.
Be careful who is listed in your contact information.
You or your organization should always be listed as the organization
and administrative contact.
registering corporate domain names, make
sure that the company name is listed as the owner of
the domain. Do not allow an outside web site designer or host to be
listed as either the domain owner or administrative contact. If possible,
the business owner or a senior executive should be listed as administrative
contact since this person will be authorized to modify or change ownership
of company domain names.
Be careful when using free e-mail addresses from services
like Hotmail. Many free e-mail services will automatically suspend
or delete your e-mail account if you do not log in frequently enough.
Once your e-mail account is deleted, a domain hijacker can sign up
for your same e-mail address and use it to give permission to transfer
your domains away from you.
possible, avoid using a free e-mail address on your domain records.
If you are
using a Hotmail account, you may want to consider paying to upgrade
your account to exempt you from their 30 day inactivity policy.
Place a registrar lock on your domain. This will lock
your domain record at the registry level and prevent it from being
transferred, modified or deleted by a third party. This feature is
very helpful in protecting your name against unauthorized transfers
your registrar does not offer this feature, consider transferring
your domains to one who does.
Since a 'registrar lock' can also make it more difficult for you to
transfer away from a registrar, you should look for a registrar that
gives you the ability to automatically unlock your domain names at
any time without having to call or e-mail them.
Do not reply (or click on any links) in any domain related e-mail
correspondence you do not recognize. Also be careful
not to reply to any 'official looking' renewal notices you receive
in the mail from companies you do not recognize. Domain hijackers
and unscrupulous registrars have been known to submit mass amounts
of transfers hoping that a small percentage of confused registrants
will accidentally confirm the transfers. When in doubt, contact your
original registrar to verify any suspicious messages.
Add your registrar's domain name to your spam filter's approved sender
list. If you (or your ISP) are using a spam blocking
service, you run the risk of not receiving domain renewal notices
from your registrar if they are incorrectly categorized. You can prevent
this from occuring by adding your registrar to your list of 'approved
senders'. This will automatically bypass any filtering and ensure
that all renewal notices make it straight to your inbox.
Consider renewing your domain name early and for a longer amount of
your domain name is critical to your business and is one you will
want for years to come, consider renewing your domain registration
in five year increments. This will avoid yearly registration
hassles and prevent your domain from accidentally expiring.
a number of common mistakes which cause domains to expire, be hijacked
or deleted. However, being aware of these mistakes and taking the
proper precautions can greatly increase the security of your domain
names. Most importantly, keep your domain information up to date and
consider consolidating your names with a registrar that provides the
tools you need to securely manage and protect your domain names.
Who do we recommend?
We have been recommending Register.com for several years and
were pleased to see that they have recently added some of the
best domain management features that we have come across.
are particularly impressed with their Name Portfolio Management
features which include an automatic 'registrar lock'
default and the ability to view combined domain name reports
sorted by expiration date - very helpful when viewing large
lists of domains at a glance. Also noteworthy is their precise
global editing control over contact info, DNS servers and renewal
and registrar lock settings. This allows you to make changes
to all (or a specific list) of your domains at once.
discount for BetterWhois visitors: Register.com
currently charges $35 a year for domain transfers via
their retail site, however due to our high volume, we have secured
a discounted rate of $15 which is available
to all BetterWhois visitors via the following link:
If you found this
article helpful, you might also be interested in....
Special Report: Have you consolidated
your domains yet?
Special Report: How to protect
your domain from cybersquatters
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