They are out there. In Internet Cafes and dark rooms from New York to Hong Kong to Iran, the domain name hijackers are plotting to steal your domain names. Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself against losing your domain names.
What is Domain Name Hijacking? Domain name hijacking is the terminology commonly used to describe the wrongful taking of a domain name from its rightful owner, by deception or fraud. Some common forms of domain hijacking include:
Why They do It - Some hijackers do it for the money. Domain names are often valuable, either for their value to an existing business, for resale, or for the click-through traffic that they might bring. Some do it for the challenge or the notoriety. It is not uncommon for a hijacker to breach an account and assume control of the domain names in the account, yet not sell them. Some might do it purely to be malicious. What matters most is that these people are out there, they are persistent, and they have no qualms at all about taking your valuable assets away from you.
Once stolen, it can be difficult to recover a domain name. Registrars are often skeptical of claims of domain hijacking, and the hijackers often "launder" the domain names to look as if they have sold them to third parties, even if they have not. By the time you discover that your domain name has been stolen, it may be at its third or fourth different registrar in the name of a completely different party, who claims to have purchased the domain for value. At that point, you may need help unraveling the mess - but what if your domain name is not worth enough to justify hiring an attorney? What if the registrar still won't listen? You may have to try to track down the thief, and sue him or her to recover your name, or you may have to sue the third party who purchased the domain name from the thief. These are both costly propositions, and while you pursue legal action, your online business is quietly being dismantled and monetized by the thief or the new "owner" of the domain.
Prevention - When confronted with the issue of domain hijacking, the best practice is to prevent a hijacking from ever occurring. The hijackers are aware of certain vulnerabilities in the domain name registration system, and they exploit these weaknesses. You can reduce the likelihood that any of your domain names will ever be hijacked by following some simple rules:
If you follow these steps, you will greatly reduce the likelihood that your domain names will be stolen, or, if stolen, that you will be able to recover them quickly. It also helps to have a contingency plan in-hand, know the phone numbers that you will have to call in an emergency, and keep up to date records showing that you are the master of your domains.
By Brett Lewis, Internet Attorney
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