Huffington Post: “When Hackers Steal A Web Address, Few Owners Ever Get It Back”

noThe Huffington Post did an article today called “When Hackers Steal A Web Address, Few Owners Ever Get It Back”. The article mentions the theft of MLA.com and the popular blog DomainGang.com:

Domain theft has been happening since the dawn of the Web. But while the Internet has created a place where small and large businesses can flourish, the law has not evolved to protect people from thieves who hijack their domains. When their websites are stolen, many business owners find they have nowhere to turn to recover them.

 

Several recent victims interviewed by The Huffington Post said they got little or no help from domain registrars like GoDaddy, Internet.bs or HostMonster. Victims also said they couldn’t get help from local law enforcement or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, a California-based nonprofit responsible for managing the Internet address system.

 

In many cases, victims can’t even file a lawsuit to recover their stolen web addresses because most states don’t have laws that recognize domain names as property, said Jonathan Askin, a technology law professor at Brooklyn Law School.

“It’s a serious problem without any legitimate recourse,” Askin said.

As the value of domain names has grown, major companies are taking security more seriously, even hiring third-party firms to guard their web addresses from thieves. Perhaps as a result, reports of domain theft have become somewhat rare. The FBI received 26 reports of domain theft over the past year, according to an FBI spokesman.

But domain hijacking often goes unreported, Askin said. And it’s small businesses that are both more vulnerable and more likely to be financially destroyed by the theft. Hackers know small businesses make easy targets because they don’t have the resources or knowledge to secure their domain names, said Leo Taddeo, head of the FBI’s cyber division in New York.

Hackers typically go after websites that are not being used by their owners, who have either bought the domains to host websites or to sell them for profit later. So thefts often go unnoticed for months. When victims finally discover what happened, they feel it’s too late to do anything about it, Askin said.

The article describes the theft of the domain name MLA.com from Michael Lee. The domain was stolen while registered with Go Daddy and it was then transferred to Internet.bs that is now owned by CentralNic. Internet.bs refuses to give the domain name back to its rightful owner.

In an emailed statement, Patty Miller, an Internet.bs representative, said the company could not determine the rightful owner of MLA.com because it was allegedly stolen while managed by another registrar and was transferred legally to Internet.bs. Miller said the company was willing to cooperate with any investigation into the matter, but so far the alleged theft of MLA.com “remains unsubstantiated.”

“Our own investigations into the matter have been concluded,” Miller said. “We urge Mr. Lee to pursue his complaint through the proper legal channels.”

In April, Lee’s attorney, Stevan Lieberman, filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to return MLA.com to him. The case is still pending.

Here is an idea Internet.bs: check historical whois records and return the domain to its owner!!!

The article then has an interview by … from DomainGang.com:

For victims who struggle to reclaim their stolen websites, one blogger has emerged as an unlikely source of help. The blogger, who asked that his name not be used because he feared reprisal from hackers, works as a website designer by day and spends his free time publishing a blog about the domain industry called domaingang.com.

In an interview, he said he scours online forums for domain names that appear to be stolen because they are advertised for much less money than they are likely worth. He writes about such cases on his blog and notifies the rightful owners.

“I’ll call them up and say ‘Are you aware that your domain name is up for sale?’ They’ll say, ‘No, I had no idea,’” he said.

The blogger said he wants to help others navigate the confusing, stressful process of recovering a stolen domain because he was once a victim of domain theft himself. A decade ago, hackers found a security hole in the company where he registered a website and stole his domain “just because they could,” he said.

“I don’t want these people to lose their property,” he said. “It’s a big headache for a small business owner who has to go through all these hoops to figure out what’s going on, and then they get resistance from their registrars.”

Finally the article talks about Jordan Reid, a popular lifestyle blogger who writes under a pseudonym that said she was met with such resistance when her website, RamshackleGlam.com, was stolen. This was the post I made back in April about this domain that was stolen at Go Daddy.

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

8 comments

  1. It’s from an interview conducted a few months ago, glad to see it coming together finally.

    For the record, I’ve received threats about the coverage of the MLA .com theft; I’m far from being an “anonymous blogger” and DomainGang is one of my full time projects, not a “free time” gig.

    Also, Internet BS actually acknowledged the domain is stolen but it seems that PR matters more.

    • I was wondering why would you use your domain name and not your name.
      It is not like they are going to hack into you personally! 🙂
      Your blogs are a big target as it is.

      Internet BS actually acknowledged the domain is stolen and did nothing?

      • The article about MLA was published on DomainGang and it’s only one of many such articles I’ve posted, covering domain theft issues. The HP editor wanted to focus on cases involving businesses. I’ve provided him with plenty of material, and have no saying in how he presents it. Overall, it was a good write up and hopefully more such coverage will follow by mainstream media.

        I encourage domain owners whose domains get stolen to raise their voice about such incidents as soon as it happens; in the past, it used to be a “hush hush” thing until the domain was recovered.

  2. It’s hard for the “Domain Industry” to gain credibility while remaining anonymous.. ..We need domain industry veterans standing tall and strong against fraud and theft, not hiding….Imagine what this looks like to a person who knows nothing regarding domains…. The person being interviewed remains anonymous and has a “gang” affiliation…”Legitimacy” is earned, not just given, and clearly we have not earned it…..

    • Well then, set the paradigm, Aaron. Spend time, and money, chasing down ghosts in Chinese forums. Have a Russian teenager thief contact your web host with threats unless the content about stolen domains is taken down. Have daily attacks from Iranian IPs because you disclosed they’re selling stolen domains on Afternic and Flippa from a bogus British outfit.

      Everyone wants more action in the arena, but won’t dare be a gladiator.

      The issue begins with ICANN and how domain ownership is defined. I’ve covered this with a proposal: http://domaingang.com/domain-news/domain-ownership-icann-must-change-antiquated-system-asap/

      • “Have a Russian teenager thief contact your web host with threats unless the content about stolen domains is taken down”……………………LMAO

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