When I first started domaining, there were many acronyms and terms thrown around on the message forums. I had no clue what many of these were and it actually took a quite a while before I could say I learned enough to understand what most of the industry nomenclature meant. A learning curve is expected, but I also felt like I was missing out on some key information if I didn’t understand what was being discussed. Then I decided to deep dive into anything I came across that I didn’t understand. This is something I have adopted not only for domaining, but for every area of my life. If you are going to spend the time doing something for a long enough period of time, then you owe it to yourself to fully understand and not just operate on surface level knowledge.
Domain hijacking and reverse domain hijacking were a couple of terms that confused the hell out of me. You see them quite often. I mean, how can you hijack a domain name? And if you are thinking like I was, of an airline hijacking, how would you “reverse” hijack something? Here’s the down and dirty from my perspective.
Domain Name Hijacking
Domain hijacking is the unauthorized transfer of a domain name from its current registrant to another person or entity. This can occur through a variety of methods, such as exploiting vulnerabilities in the domain name system (DNS), social engineering, or by gaining access to the registrant’s account through phishing or other means.
“Typosquatting” is a form of domaining that is sometimes lumped in with domain hijacking. Ttyposquatting is when a person or business registers a domain name that is similar to a popular website, but with a slight typo in the URL. For example, a typosquatter may register “SullyBlog.com” instead of “SullysBlog.com.” When users accidentally type in the incorrect URL, they are directed to the hacker’s website, which may be used to phish for personal information or to spread malware or just to get traffic meant for the other site.
Another form of domain hijacking is accomplished through “phishing,” in which a person sends an email or message to the domain registrant, pretending to be a legitimate organization such as a domain registrar or hosting company. The message will typically ask the registrant to click on a link and enter their login credentials, which the hacker (lets call it what it is – more than just a dishonest domainer) then uses to gain access to the registrant’s account.
Reverse Domain Hijacking
Reverse domain hijacking, also known as a form of “cybersquatting”, is when a trademark owner or an individual or organization with a trademark claim tries to take away a domain name from a registrant without proper legal grounds. They may do this by making false or fraudulent representations to the registrar or by threatening legal action.
One example of reverse domain hijacking is when a company with a similar name to an existing domain name attempts to gain control of the domain by claiming that it is infringing on their trademark. In this case, the company may try to get the domain registrar to transfer the domain to them, even though the registrant has been using the domain name in good faith and has not infringed on any trademarks.
Another example of reverse domain hijacking is when a company acquires a trademark after a domain has already been registered and then tries to take control of the domain by claiming that it is infringing on their trademark. In this case, the company may try to get the domain registrar to transfer the domain to them, even though the registrant has been using the domain name in good faith and has no knowledge of the company’s trademark.
Other techniques involve finding technical exploits to gain unauthorized access and in some cases even forge documentation.
It’s important to note that reverse domain hijacking is considered a bad faith behavior and is prohibited by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and national arbitration forums such as the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also has a policy against reverse domain hijacking.
Although I have never been impacted personally, domain hijacking is a serious problem that can have serious consequences for both individuals and businesses. It is important to be vigilant and take steps to protect your domain name, such as using strong passwords and monitoring your account for suspicious activity. Additionally, it’s crucial to be aware of the reverse domain hijacking and the potential legal repercussions. It’s always best to seek legal advice if you believe you’re a victim of reverse domain hijacking or if you’re thinking of taking such action. And don’t register trademarked names in your domains, please.