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What is Domain Hijacking?

Cyber-attacks have become one of the most serious threats that businesses and individuals alike must deal with. Attacks on domain names, in particular, are posing a far greater risk than in the past. These attacks have serious implications, including a damaged reputation, data loss, and financial damage.

Domain hijacking is the act of altering a domain name's registration without the real owner's consent, or by abusing access to domain hosting and registrar systems. A malicious person attempts to gain total access to his target's domain registrar account data, which would allow him to perform illegal modifications and transfers to his benefit.

What does Domain Hijacking Mean?

The goal of a hijacking attack in information technology is to obtain unauthorized access to information or services in the IT system. Different sorts of hijacking strategies can be distinguished depending on where the attack is being carried out: DNS hijacking, IP hijacking, URL hijacking, and domain hijacking are all types of hijacking.

Domain hijacking is a type of cyber-attack in which hackers manipulate the registration data of a domain name. The term "domain hijacking" is a polite way of saying "your domain name has been taken."

Why is Domain Hijacking Important?

Businesses are increasingly coming online, and websites are a valuable asset for companies. Hijacking any company's website is the same as depriving them of their income and earnings. This is why hackers choose to steal their sites and damage their online reputation. Domain hijacking has significant financial implications for organizations and may severely harm brand reputation.

When a domain is hijacked, it typically affects more than just the owner of the name. Customers, business partners, consumers of the name holder's services, and even persons who are completely unrelated to the name holder are frequently "collateral damage" in hijacking events.

A hijacker may decide to preserve the domain to put up a phishing site in charge of collecting client information or to spread malware. Users who are uninformed of any changes in the domain owner's identity may visit a site spreading malware and depart with an infected PC and a negative impression of the previously trusted website. Any unfavorable encounter with a hijacked domain will harm the reputation of the brand.

How Does Domain Hijacking Work?

A domain name is acquired from a domain registrar or a hosting provider, who will grant the buyer access to the domain's settings. The buyer may specify all domain data, including who the owner of the record is and which website the name should go to. No one other than the domain owner can access this administration panel and make changes to the settings.

Cybercriminals attempt to hijack a valuable domain in a variety of ways;

  • Social engineering is the most successful way (including phishing). A hijacker may impersonate a company or domain registrar over the phone to get login credentials for the genuine domain registrar. The person responsible for the domain management of the relevant company can be tricked into writing the necessary information to log in on a fake page. Once has this information, the hijacker can transfer domain registrations to different domain providers in distant countries.

  • In addition, the hijacker may try to infect your computer with malware (with social engineering again). The thief can gain credentials for the domain management panel using malware such as a trojan or a keylogger.

  • A hijacker may try to guess your domain control panel password if you choose a weak one. After successfully guessing the password, they can access the domain administration panel.

  • Domain hijackers could also wait until the domain is close to expiring, hoping that it will not be renewed in time because of a human error. Although most registrars send out aggressive renewal reminders your email system may mistake them for spam.

  • Exploiting a weakness in the domain name registrar system is another option, but one with a low probability. If a vulnerability like this exists, a hijacker may be able to gain access for transferring the domain to a new registrar.

Is Domain Hijacking Illegal?

The legal status of domain hijacking is still unknown, some federal courts in various nations have begun to recognize causes of action seeking to recover stolen domain names to their rightful owners.

There are different types of domain hijacking. Domain squatting is one of them. This is the act of purchasing a domain name only to prevent it from being purchased by another person. Typically, the buyer would resell the domain name for a greater price to a buyer in a hurry to pay for it. A domain squatter prevents the legitimate owner of a trademark or brand from obtaining the domain name and exploiting it to boost their online presence. Domain squatting is viewed by the law as akin to holding a property (the domain name) for ransom, and it is deemed a trademark violation.

As another domain hijack, we can consider buying an expired domain name from the previous owner by acting quickly. It is not illegal to purchase the expired domain name of a person or a commercial company.

What are Hijacked Domains Used for?

Hackers may wish to hijack your domain for a variety of reasons. As you can expect, they are continually seeking methods to make money. Typically, hijacked domains become unavailable, and your online identity, i.e. your website, is no longer visible. A disastrous conclusion because your company relies on its website for revenue. This is why the hacker may demand a ransom to return the domain to you.

The hijacker might replace your website with another identical one and use it for phishing or other harmful behavior. A serious risk for your users, who may unintentionally submit important information, such as bank account information, on this new fake site.

After your domain name has been successfully transferred, the hijacker can resell it. And there are also some motivations for hijackers. For example social reasons ( Political, religious, fun, revenge, etc. )

How to Prevent Domain Hijacking?

Aside from the preventative precautions, we'll take, several security standards between domain providers and the parent organization The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have been established.

ICANN requires a 60-day waiting time between a change in the registration information and a registrar transfer to limit the risk of successful domain hijacking. Transferred domains are more difficult to recover, and it is expected that the original registrant will notice the changes and notify their registrar within 60 days.

Many TLD(top-level domain) registries employ the Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP), which offers a unique authorization number to the domain registrant as a security mechanism to prevent unwanted transfers.

The best method to avoid domain hijacking is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. There are other actions you can do to prevent domain hijacking:

How to Prevent Domain Hijacking

Figure 1. How to Prevent Domain Hijacking

1. Choose a Reliable Domain Provider

Work with an accredited registrar, avoid working with non-accredited registrars that offer free or cheap services. Reputable, known domain registrars will ensure you have a secure DNS management panel and will also be able to offer 24x7 technical support. Using a nationally recognized domain provider might be a better alternative. You may rest certain that they will safeguard your domain and prevent it from being hijacked. It is now necessary to have online support agents available whenever you need them. They'll be the first people you contact if you have an issue, so make sure they're constantly available, not only by email but also by phone and through the ticket system. If you want to reclaim your hijacked domains, you need to get immediate help.

2. Use two-factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication should be activated on all accounts that support it. The second layer of authentication can assist prevent you from unwanted access if someone manages to obtain access to one of your accounts. Two-step verification (TSV) is one of the greatest ways to guarantee your accounts isn't hijacked. Because it employs more than just your password, Only then may you access your account after entering a unique verification code provided to your smartphone at your request.

3. Active the WHOIS Privacy

Enabling WHOIS protection can significantly minimize the amount of personal information you give to the Internet. This information includes your address, phone number, and email address. Hijackers try to collect different information about the owner before they start to try to take over the domain, they search for your contact information. For this reason, using your domain name by activating the WHOIS privacy service in a way that will keep the contact information confidential against third parties will increase your security.

4. Protect your Business from Phishing and Scams

Phishing is a kind of cyber attack that is most often carried out via email. Thousands of people get fake emails from unknown criminals demanding them to supply private or personal information (such as passwords and bank account numbers), transfer money to persons or organizations, or download something that infects their computer in a typical attack. The email frequently contains malware-infected files or links to a spoof website,' where attackers try to fool you into giving over personal information.

Keep an eye out for emails demanding registrar login information: Every day, phishing attacks take place. Scam and phishing assaults are frequently made through a domain name that is similar to your genuine registrar firm or by impersonating a trustworthy sender's email address. Always contact your domain registrar through an official website and transmit the email to them to verify that it is legitimate.

5. Set Strong Passwords and Change Them Periodically

Using weak passwords to protect your domain and email account is one of the quickest ways to lose your domain. Always choose a strong password that includes a combination of lowercase and uppercase characters, numbers, and symbols. You can avoid brute force attacks and illegal access to your accounts by using a strong password.

Furthermore, because your domain and email accounts are particularly critical, make sure the passwords you create for them are distinct from those you use elsewhere on the internet. Passwords should be changed every 72 to 90 days, according to most security companies.

How to Recover a Stolen Domain Name?

Attacks on domains or registration accounts usually have one of two outcomes: First, the attacker modifies DNS settings so that the domain's name resolution is handled by a name server that is not owned (or maintained by) the victim. Secondly, the attacker changes the contact information for domain registrations and essentially gains control of any domains registered under the hijacked account.

Domain thieves may update the registration data (WHOIS) linked with a domain name if they wish to maintain the name since it is the most immediate and accessible "evidence." They can change payment details. They may transfer the domain name to a new registrar, which will have information about the consumer but no history of registration activity.

There is still the possibility of recovering a hijacked domain. Here, we demonstrate two different ways, each with varying degrees of efficacy.

1. Contact with registrar When it comes to your domains, your domain provider is always the initial point of contact. If you notice your domain has been stolen, request that the transfer be revoked right away. A 60-day transfer lock is usually applied to the transfer procedure. If the domain has been transferred to an internal account at the same registrar, the chances of recovery are better. It's best to use this first option as soon as possible in the hopes of immediately addressing the problem and limiting any damage. If you wait too long, your domain name may be moved many times, complicating the procedure and making it more difficult to recover your domain.

2. Reply to a UDRP complaint or similar procedures The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) is a contract that all ICANN-accredited registrars must follow to handle disputes about domain name ownership. It was primarily developed to counter cybersquatting or trademark breaches, therefore it may not provide results if your domain name is not associated with a trademark. If you have a registered trademark, the UDRP is the appropriate mechanism to use. It has the benefit in this scenario of permitting quick banning of the domain, keeping its data from being modified or moved to another registrar. It should also prevent internal transfers between registrar accounts.

According to ICANN, documentation is key to recovering hijacked domain names. The following are a few examples: Some of the "paper trail" below can be used to show that you had a previous claim to a domain name over a company or organization listed as the registrant in a hijacked domain name.

  • Domain history, registration records, billing records, tax filings

  • Archives demonstrating that the stolen domain name has been linked to anything you've put on the internet,

  • Banking transactions linking you or your company to the hijacked domain name.

What Is Domain Spoofing?

A popular type of phishing is domain spoofing, which happens when an attacker seems to utilize a firm's domain to impersonate the organization or one of its workers. Attackers send emails with real-looking fake domain names and develop web pages with subtly changed characters to deceive visitors into believing they're being sent to the proper site. There are 3 main types of domain spoofing;

  1. Email spoofing
  2. URL spoofing
  3. DNS poisoning.

To provide the illusion of credibility, spoof websites or emails will imitate the organization's design and logo. Users who respond to email or web domain spoofing may be misled into disclosing critical information, handing over login passwords, sending money to a bogus account, or participating in other acts that affect the company.

Imagine a hacker has constructed a bogus website that appears quite similar to your bank's website. Then you receive an email that appears to have been sent by your bank. According to the email, someone attempted to access your account in a faraway nation. You are then requested to click on the link, visit the website, and enter information to resolve the problem. You know where this is heading, don't you?

To be aware of domain spoofing; examine the URL carefully, check for an SSL certificate, always keep the source in mind that "Is this a link that came from an email?"

What is Reverse Domain Hijacking?

In domain name dispute cases, reverse domain name hijacking (RDNH) happens when a trademark owner seeks to obtain a domain name by fraudulently claiming cybersquatting against the domain name owner. It is defined as "attempting to deprive a registered domain name holder of a domain name by utilizing the Policy in bad faith."

This is in contrast to domain name hijacking, also known as reverse cybersquatting, which is usually associated with cybercrime and involves the theft of a domain name via unauthorized access to the domain management account, or domain name system (DNS) hijacking, which involves the changing of a domain's name servers via related illegal access.

How Can You Use Zenarmor for Blocking of Domain Hijacking?

The following capabilities of the Zenarmor network security system are helpful for preventing the domain hijacking attack:

  • Blocking the Phishing Sites: Preventing phishing attacks will be a precaution to prevent the domain name from being stolen.

  • Blocking Malware Sites: Preventing Malware infection in endpoints will prevent the domain hijacking attack before it starts.

  • Advanced Security: With the Advanced Security features, Zenarmor can also block the following cyber threats:

  • Dormant Websites : You can ban sites whose registrations have expired by enabling this option. It is common for cybercriminals to re-register sites that are no longer in use.
  • Newly Registered Sites: By selecting this option, you can prevent newly registered domains from being used by threat actors. From a security standpoint, there are very few reasons why someone would need to visit a newly launched site; they were most likely sent there by a URL from a malicious campaign.
  • Newly Recovered Sites: Just like freshly registered sites, sites that have been silent for a long time and have recently resurfaced may be utilized by attackers. Cyber thieves frequently exploit sites with a solid reputation history to circumvent reputation-based security solutions.