Dec 192008
 

In the wild and wooly days of the early internet people would occasionally find their domain names in the “hands” of another owner. The process is called hijacking and is as illegal as any other form of theft. The problem is that it was (and is) very hard to prove.

These days registrars take a few more precautions and have greatly updated security. If your domain lands in someone else’s hands today it’s likely because the domain expired and you just lost the rights to it. Make sure you keep your registration up to date and that won’t be a problem.

Still, hijacking is, in theory, possible and the following article goes into the problem and the solution in more detail.

The following article is by Subhash Kumar

Domain hijacking is the process by which internet domains are basically stolen. Many people confuse domain hijacking with the “reuse” of an expired domain. One is a legal process and one is not. Domain hijacking is theft, reuse of an expired domain is “opportunity usage”.

Domain theft is an aggressive form of that usually involves an illegal act. In most cases, identity theft is used to trick the domain registrar into allowing the hijacker to change the registration information to steal control of an unexpired domain from the legitimate owner.

In domain hijacking, or domain slamming, for some reason, you can’t get into your own domain, you’re not receiving email from that domain, and you discover that it’s now registered to someone else. Needless to say, to a small online business this can be devastating.

It could happen for a number of reasons. Maybe you have a particularly valuable domain name that someone wants to sell. In fact, .com domains are supposedly more likely to be stolen than any others. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that whoever stole your domain did it as an attack on your business or you personally.

This is also done by sending a forged fax to the domain registrar, impersonating you (the registrant.) Other attacks are more subtle: the email that tells you your domain name is about to expire, and that you need to renew. Are you sure that email is actually from your registrar? That last form of attack is called domain slamming, after a similar and now illegal practice formerly engaged in by certain phone companies, which switched user’s long distance phone companies without their knowledge or consent.

Domains can also be hijacked when registrars don’t follow all the procedures. The gaining registrar (to whom the domain is transferred) is supposed to get the approval of the domain name registrant or administrative contact before going forward with the transfer.

Likewise, the losing registrar (from whom the domain is being transferred) is supposed to notify the registrant of the transfer during the five-day grace period before the transfer is completed. Either way, that’s YOU if it’s your business. You can deny approval of the transfer, but only if you know about it.

Protection from Domain Hijacking

All it takes is one easy step to protect yourself from potentially losing your domain name in this manner. You can place a ‘lock ‘ on your domain name. Your domain name registrar should allow you to lock your domain name either by phone, fax, email, or online domain manager using your login and password . Your domain registrar will let you know which method they require. Once a lock is placed on your domain name, a transfer of registrar cannot be completed unless the lock is removed by you.

To check if your domain is locked or not, visit www.NetSol.com, click on the ‘Who-Is’ section of the site, then enter your domain name. Scroll down below the registration information and look for the section that says, ‘Lock Status’. If this says, ‘REGISTRAR-LOCK ‘ then your name is protected. If this says, ‘ACTIVE’ then your domain name is not locked and your domain name is not protected.

Most, if not all, registrars provide domain locking functionality. They may or may not charge for it and they may or may not activate it by default. Make sure that you verify for yourself that all your domains are locked.

End of Mr. Kumar’s article.

Losing your domain to a hijacker is, at best, annoying. At worst it can kill your business, or at least one of the sites connected to that biz.

A far more likely problem than theft is if you let your domain expire. You might face similar problems as it the name were hijacked, but at least it’s not an theft issue. Heck, even Microsoft has been known to forget to renew their various domains (check this out.)

So keep your domain contact info current, keep it locked (at least until you sell it,) and make sure the email address you have with your registrar is current. If they can’t contact you when your renewal is due, well, someone else will have your name.

Dec 172008
 

Ok, you’ve bought your domain name and you’ve bought your hosting and now you have to connect the two into a happy union. How you do this depends on exactly what you want to do.

  1. If you bought your domain name at a 3rd party registrar, meaning you didn’t buy it from the hosting company, and you want to point that name to the host. Or…
  2. You actually want to transfer the domain from whichever registrar you happen to have to your hosting service. The hosting service then becomes the new registrar of the domain.

Pointing the Way

I’m going to assume that you want to connect your domain and your web host, but you want to keep your and your host separate. Which I think is a good idea since you get a lot more control over your domain doing it this way.

I’ll cover the other option later.

All web hosts have something called a nameserver. This is the magic that connects your domain to the computer that you’re renting space on. The tech’s will guffaw at this definition of mine, but it works for this discussion.

What you want to do is grab the nameserver domains from your host and enter them into your domain name administration panel. The nameservers probably came in the email that you received when you signed up for your new hosting service. They look something like this:

  • ns1.YourHostingService.com and
  • ns2.YourHostingService.com.

If they aren’t in the emails or you can’t find them in your host’s documentation then contact customer service.

Ok, You’ve Got Your Nameservers

Log into your domain administration account and look for a button or link that says something like: edit nameservers, change nameservers, assign nameservers, etc. If your registrar is GoDaddy then you log in and look for the tiny Manage Domains link, on the left side, under the My Products bar.

  • Click that link and you’ll hit the page with a list of your domain name(s.)
  • Click the domain name you want to point to your new host.
  • You’ll hit a page with all kinds of domain details. There’s a line of icons above that. Click the one that says Nameservers.
  • Enter the first nameserver name, for example: ns1.YourHostingService.com, into the first box. Enter the other, eg: ns2.YourHostingService.com, into the second box. I suggest using the ol’ copy and paste method. Fewer typos that way.
  • Hit the OK button (down and to the right.)
  • Give it a minute or three to think about it.
  • You will get the “finished” screen and you’re done.

Other registrars will be similar. Log in, find the place to modify your domains, then hit the link to edit/change nameservers. Plug in the new names, hit ok, and you’re done.

Note: Your domain will not connect to your new site immediately. It will take a few hours to a day or two for your new domain to properly resolve to your site. All registrars are pretty much the same in this. It just has to do with the way the internet works. Give it time, it’ll hook up, and you’re good.

You Want to Transfer Your Domain Name?

Why would you want to do that? If you’re not selling that domain name? The only advantage to having your domain registered with the same place that hosts your site is that you may get the domain for free as part of your hosting package and you won’t have to deal with nameservers.

If you have to fire your host then you may find that a third party registrar was a good idea after all, but here we go with the transfer:

The Process of Transferring

Transferring a name from Registrar A to Registrar B is not the same thing as pointing it to your host. When you transfer the name to another registrar you’re transfering the actual listing of the name from A to B.

You’re doing the same thing if you sell the name, it’s just that you have to coordinate money and registrar with the buyer.

So here’s what you need to do:

Log into the admin panel of the registrar listing your domain and unlock that domain. Domains are locked to prevent transfers. In the past scammers could hijack domains and locking prevents this. So you’re going to need to unlock it.

At the new registrar find the link that says Transfer Domain.

Enter the name of the domain that you wish to transfer and take careful note of any instructions on the page. You must have access to the email address that you used when you first registered the domain.

The transfer isn’t free. You will be paying for at least a year with your new registrar.

The transfer isn’t fast. It will take around 7 days to complete.

Once you’ve requested the transfer and paid your money you will get emails from both the new registrar and the old. Each one will want you to verify the transfer. Read those emails very carefully because they will contain instructions to on how to deny the transfer, as well as to approve it. YOU want to make sure you’re giving them the right instruction.

If you replied yes to the emails you might receive another email, from one or both registrars, acknowledging and verifying that the transfer will take place.

Then you wait a few days and the name will settle nicely into it’s new home.

Buying and Selling Domains

The process of buying and selling doman names is similar. The domain has to be unlocked and both the old and new registrars with send their emails requesting approval.

The buyer will, depending on the negotiations, pay the transfer fees.

Of course, there are a few potential pitfalls here. You might want to look into an escrow service to facilitate the transfer of both the name and the payment. AfterNic.com is one such service.

Do you want to play the buy/sell domain name game? Smart players make some pretty good money doing just this, but there are pitfalls. A good start might be to check out the domain appraisals at GoDaddy.com for any domains that you might have or want to buy. Start by looking for names that are easy to say out loud and that aren’t trademarked. A lack of numbers and hyphens is also good. GoDaddy.com, for example, hits nicely on all but the trademarked part. 😉

Good luck!

Summing Up

Once all the “paperwork” is done the domain name officially transfers to the new registrar and that part is done. If the new registrar is your hosting company then you are probably all done, if it’s not then you still need to set your nameservers.

Then you’re done.