Maintaining Your Anonymity: The DL on Domain Privacy

Ok, so as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t write anything – or post it to the internet – if you don’t want it being traced back to you. However, it isn’t really just about avoiding confrontation or being “the bad guy.” Regardless of what you post, anonymously or otherwise, what’s more important is your true safety from what lurks behind the scenes.

I don’t think it’s any secret that there’s an entire society of people who get their jollies from stealing information. To consumers, this means a need to protect their personal information and social security and credit card numbers. But to a website owner, it means protecting their actual business.

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Here’s a fun scenario for you…

You’re the successful owner of a money-generating blog.

You have thousands of readers, a steady income from advertisers, and really, a good thing going.

Needless to say, your hobby has turned into your livelihood; it’s a blogger’s dream come true.

You initially registered your domain for a two-year term, and now that two years is coming to an end. Conveniently, your hosting provider has sent you a renewal notice; all you have to do is complete the form they’ve included, which includes your basic domain information, a selection of your renewal term, and payment. You send in the requirements and your initial term expires – but no worries, you were ahead of the curve and already renewed.

Except that you go to post your new column and find that you can’t access your admin. What gives?

Domain Privacy: Avoid the “Hard Way”

Quite simply, you didn’t renew your registration; you transferred it to a third-party miscreant.

You wouldn’t be the first person it happened to, and unfortunately, you likely won’t be the last. There are tons of ways cyber criminals can overtake your domain, the above just being one of the more commonly used scams.

Here’s how they did it:

Every domain out there has a WhoIs record – essentially, the online “phonebook” of domain information. Just like a phonebook entry, your domain’s WhoIs record gives away all of your info – think name, contact number, mailing address… and then, since it’s tied to your domain, it also includes a few extras, like your domain name and expiration. That information is everything the scammer needed to put together an official-looking renewal notice and send it your way. You seemingly “smartly” complied, providing them everything they needed to transfer away your successful domain into their hands and were never any the wiser. And, sadly, they did it legitimately – though not ethically.

So how could you stop it?

Well, for starters, only renew your domain directly through your provider – typically, by visiting their website directly, though a phone call would work in many cases, too. Point being, don’t renew through email links, snail mail forms, etc.

It may seem like overkill to be constantly watching over your shoulder, but trust me – it’s worth it.

However, there’s something even more basic than remaining on constant high alert: purchase domain privacy. You can purchase through your domain name registrar (no, not all offer it) and, in turn for a fee, they’ll register alternate WhoIs contact information for your domain.

You can also make use of subdomains to safeguard your information and site. For starters, the WhoIs record rules vary, but also, odds are that hackers won’t target every single one of your subdomains simultaneously. Subdomains are created and managed through your hosting provider. You should know that not all web hosts offer subdomain features and capabilities and some who do limit how many or the types you can create. That said, before you sign onto a hosting provider, know what they offer – and the limitations – in the way of subdomains.

Safeguarding your domain is essential. Better to overkill than take chances in this case. If you have questions, leave a note in the comments. We also have tons of web host reviews that give more information about what various providers offer in terms of subdomains.