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Domain Theft/Hijacking and What Can Be Done

By John DiGiacomo

Domain theft, also called website hijacking, is a subset of cybercrime. Domain theft is distinct from trademark infringement behavior that is called cybersquatting or typosquatting. There are many methods used by domain thieves, but generally speaking, domain theft occurs when some cybercriminal gains access to your registration credentials and resets passwords/codes. By doing this, cybercriminals are, essentially, able to steal your website. If this has happened to you, call us here at Revision Legal. You will need to hire top-rated internet lawyers like Revision Legal to help you regain control of your domain and website. You need an effective corrective action plan. Revision Legal can also provide legal and practical counsel on avoiding future threats of domain theft. Here is some general information on domain theft/hijacking and what can be done.

As many know, when you establish a website, you register a domain name. To do this, you generally retain a company as your “domain name registrar” and then you must have a company that hosts your website. Often, these are the same company. Cybercriminals can successfully steal/hijack your domain/website by exploiting vulnerabilities in the computer and network systems of either your domain name registrar or your hosting company. So, one important step in reducing the risks of domain theft/hijacking is to ensure that you use reputable companies as your registrar and for hosting services. Risk reduction is generally enhanced by using two different companies for these services. Part of what defines “reputable” is whether the registrar company has employees — that can actually be contacted — who are dedicated to preventing domain theft and tasked with remediating domain theft. These employees are the first persons to contact if your domain/website has been stolen.

That being said, the most common method used by cybercriminals to steal/hijack your domain/website is by exploiting vulnerabilities in YOUR cybersecurity. In particular, the easiest method is to discover the website owner’s email address and security credentials (username and passwords/codes). Once these are stolen, then the security credentials can be reset and the cybercriminals have complete access to the registration and the website and can impersonate the domain name owner. From there, the cybercriminals can modify registration information and even transfer the domain to another registrar. Common methods of breaching your cybersecurity include keylogger and phishing attacks.

What to Do if Your Domain Has Been Stolen/Hijacked

As noted, the first step is to contact your domain registrar company and report the theft/hijacking. If the cybercriminals have not transferred the domain/website to a new registrar, you may be able to demonstrate the theft and the registrar might be able to restore/reset the security credentials. Talented and experienced internet and domain theft attorneys can be of crucial help here. Internet attorneys will know how to effectively “speak” with the personnel at the registrar and said personnel are much more likely to take the matter seriously when an attorney is writing emails and engaged in phone correspondence. If matters cannot be resolved through correspondence, then it may be necessary to initiate court litigation or proceedings through ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers which is the nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating maintenance and procedures for domain name registration and ownership. These are often called “UDRP Proceedings” which stands for “Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy.” Revision Legal has experienced UDRP attorneys that can help if this option is needed.

If the domain registration has been transferred to a new registrar, then matters become more difficult. Often, resort to litigation and/or ICANN UDRP proceedings are the only option. All of these procedures will take time which is one important reason for using a different company for your website hosting. It is possible to pause your hosting service while you try to regain ownership of your registration. This helps prevent cybercriminals from changing your website, interfering with communications (like company email systems), causing reputational damage and/or, potentially, stealing revenue from your website. For more information, call Revision Legal’s experienced internet attorneys today for assistance. You can contact us through the form on this page or call (855) 473-8474.

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