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Is Your Domain Name Being Hijacked?
Contributed by: G3nu1n3, at 11/13/2004 10:06:00 AM.

New rule creates potential security flaw for domain name transfers.

If you own a domain name for your business or personal use, run, don't walk, to the phone, call the company you registered the name with, and make sure that name is "locked down."

If you don't, you could easily lose your rights to that domain. And whether your Web site is an integral part of your business, or just keyed to your family's activities, waking up one morning without it could range from inconvenient to disastrous. The danger stems from a new rule from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, effective today, that could lead to domain names being transferred and hijacked, unbeknownst to their owners, some registrars worry. There are hundreds of domain name registrars operating in the United States.

What's New

Before November 12, a change of domain name registration had to be approved by both the "gaining" and "losing" registration companies. But the new rules state the transfer can occur without the approval of the registrar "losing" the account. And that account could be yours.

"This new rule is going to give [con artists] new opportunities to hijack domain names, hijack Web sites," says Fred Bunzl, who owns DomainsNow4U.com.

Tom Cunningham, CEO of BulkRegister.com, and other registrars say they fear con artists can now set up false accounts with a gaining company and initiate a transfer of a domain name, without the owner's knowledge.

"Now, if I ask and you don't answer, it's actually assumed [your domain name] is moving," Cunningham says.

Registrars are encouraged to notify owners when a transfer is requested, but it's not mandatory. If five days pass without your response, the domain name automatically switches. Even if your registrar did notify you, it's most likely to be by e-mail--and your busy life, your spam filter, or a vacation could eat up your five-day response period.

Mike Tumolillo, a freelance journalist who runs miketumo.com and medillians.org, says he's skeptical that an e-mail of the impending transfer provides sufficient warning. "I usually ignore e-mails if I don't know who it is," Tumolillo says. "I don't want to get infected with a virus."

Since the rule changes are so new, most domain name owners are unfamiliar with them.

"I haven't heard anything," says Tumolillo. Faced with the possibility of losing his domain names, Tumolillo had this response: "That would extraordinarily suck."

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