Whether you are running a full website or just hoping to capitalize on a future opportunity, protecting your domain name is of paramount importance to anyone who is interested in an online career. You don’t hear too many success stories of people who lost their domain name to a hacker or scammer only to come back twice as strong. When you do hear a success story, they are the exception to the rule, and you can be sure they’d be better off not losing the name in the first place.
Just like any valuable property, your domain name is something worth protecting. This needs to be done on several fronts, and you need to take the steps to protect yourself immediately. The road to victimhood is paved with procrastinated intentions, and getting your domain name back is extremely difficult and/or costly once you’ve lost it. If you have a lot of valuable content associated with the name, it will only be more difficult to get it back.
Here are the main things you need to do to protect your domain name:
Keep Your Basic Computer and Internet Security Strong
Your computer and other online accounts likely have information that could lead to the theft or other loss of your domain name, so you need to make sure that you have great security habits in general. You should be doing the following:
- Make sure that you have a security suite on any computer or device you use to deal with your domain name. No exceptions.
- Protect your email using every method you can think of (and even more you can look up). Your email is the main gateway into your other online accounts and is probably the easiest route through which someone can take your domain name.
- Have a backup copy of all of the data on your computer that you’d miss. That way you’ll be able to recover more easily if your computer falls victim to malware or ransomware.
- Be wary of most online offers. Scammers are everywhere, and nothing on the internet is truly free or easy. Ask yourself how any offer benefits the giver and how it could negatively impact you.
- Be careful what you download or what people send you online. You could be clicking right into a trap, and it is very easy for things to become too late.
Protect Your Website
If your domain name has a working website attached to it, you should make every possible to protect that website if you aren’t already. If you lose it, then you lose your domain name as well. You need to make sure you are doing the following:
- Use the strongest verification methods you can associate with your website. Use complex passwords and security questions that no one but you know (you’d be surprised what people can find out online).
- Make sure you are updating your platform and plugins if you are using any. Get rid of plugins that aren’t getting updated or could potentially lead to an XSS attack. Make a check of this sort every couple of months.
- Do use plugins, tools and scripts that are beneficial to the security of your website. Once you find an acclaimed tool, make sure that you have something that can scan your website against vulnerabilities and protect you against brute force attacks. Protections against DDOS attacks and some other threats aren’t necessary to protect your domain name, but will prove helpful regardless.
- Constantly be on the lookout for new threats, and listen when you hear about potential vulnerabilities on your website. It is better to be needlessly cautious than reckless.
Beware of Public Networks
People who like to manage their websites and business from more than just their homes and offices (a near necessity in today’s fast-paced world) will often have to pay a lot for their data plans or use public networks whenever they can. Yet public networks are extremely dangerous for any internet user, as on them it is possible for hackers to intercept your data without you having the slightest inkling of what is going on. This can easily lead to your email account or domain name getting stolen and sold within a matter of hours.
The best way for you to protect your domain name from this particular threat is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) whenever you are using a public network. A VPN is a service that connects your computer to another server around the world via an encrypted connection. This connection will protect you on public networks and not even let hackers know what you’re up to online. It also will also you to access blocked content anywhere in the world and hide your IP address, keeping you anonymous online.
Lock Down Your Domain Name
Certain domain name providers will have an option to put on additional security onto your domain name, allowing you to lock it down to your account and prevent unwanted transfers. It is likely something you will want to look into so that you can prevent an accidental loss or someone coming into your account and easily taking it away. It might not always be an option, but a quick check right this moment will only take a few minutes and might save you a lot of money and time in the long run. It may even cost a few dollars, but it could still be worth it for the security concerned.
Check In Regularly
It is surprising to see the effectiveness of simply checking in on your website or domain name regularly. It allows you to notice different things that might be out of place and get other notifications. You might be able to check to see if a person has been trying to get into your account depending on your service provider and your timing. Try to set up as many security notifications as possible so you can know if something is up with just an email. It will also get you in the good habit of being more involved with your business.
Renew Early and for Long Periods of Time
If you have a domain name that’s in strong demand, you can bet there will be vultures circling your website via tools ready to tell them the second your domain name is available for purchase. It will only be a matter of minutes (or even seconds) before someone snatches it up, and then they’ll either use it for themselves or be happy to resell it back to you (for a four figure sum).
Don’t let your hold on the name expire. If you have an option to renew your hold for five years and intend to keep it for that long, take the option and save yourself some money in the long run. Don’t wait until the very last minute to extend your hold, and choose to automatically renew from an account if that is an option (and update the card information every few years as your cards expire).
Keep Your Contact Info Current
It is a little known fact that domain name providers can revoke registration if you don’t respond in a proper amount of time to an inquiry about incorrect information (see 188.8.131.52 of ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement). It isn’t a complex process and is resolved without too many problems most of the time, but your domain name could be in jeopardy if you don’t make the proper contact in time.
The main cause of this kind of domain name loss is the lack of contact information. More times than not you can safely know that your provider will be willing to work with you and reach out, but there’s nothing that can be done if you no longer have the email address and phone number that they have on record. Take a quick look to see if everything is current and make adjustments as necessary. Set a yearly reminder to check in on this. You’ll be thankful when it comes up.
Know Your Options
If your domain name does unfortunately get stolen or otherwise lost, you will need to act quickly and decisively. If the domain is particularly valuable, then you might want to consider legal action, in which case you should know the laws well and any policies your provider has put in place. If your computer is compromised, you should eliminate the threat, then reset passwords and accounts as necessary (be liberal about it). If you think your website is under attack, determine the source of the attack and retaliate as necessary. You need to plan ahead and have a go-to plan for any situation. Ideally, you won’t even have to think about it.
If you take the right steps, your domain name will be perfectly safe. It takes a little bit of time and some of your resources, but protecting your domain name properly should be seen as an investment which more than makes up for its costs. Do not be the weakest link online that will get targeted, and instead show the professional community that you care about every aspect of your online career and business.
Do you have any experience defending your domain name(s) from hackers and other vultures looking to make a quick dollar? Do you have any other tips that might be helpful to your fellow readers? If you do, please leave a comment below so you can keep the conversation going and share your knowledge with everyone.