Domain hijacking is a form of cybersquatting premised on changing a domain name system (DNS) registration without its original domain registrant’s authorization, or on abusing privileges on DNS hosting provider accounts. Domain hijacks have been used to steal traffic from high-traffic websites through phishing and other social engineering tactics.

Domain name hijacking is a chronic cybersecurity threat that affects people and businesses registering internet domain names. It can be done for profit or as cyber-vandalism, or both. Domain hijackers are malicious parties who try to take ownership of an existing domain name by taking advantage of the DNS registration system’s vulnerabilities.

Domain hijacking is a serious security threat that can result in significant financial and reputational damage to your organization, so developing cybersecurity plans focused on preventing these threats is essential to protect your stakeholders.

How are Domains Hijacked?

Domain hijacking occurs from illegal access to or exploitation of a common cybersecurity vulnerability in a domain name registrar, or from acquiring access to the domain name owner’s email address and then changing the password to the owner’s domain name registrar.

Another popular strategy is to collect personal information about the real domain name owner to impersonate him or her, and then persuade the domain registrar to change the registration details or transfer the domain to another registrar under their control.

Other ways include email vulnerability, domain-registration vulnerability, keyloggers to steal login passwords, and phishing attempts. Once a cyber criminal gains access to a target domain name, the criminal can use it for malicious purposes such as launching spam campaigns, social engineering scams, or cybercrime activities.

What Happens When a Domain is Hijacked?

Several things can happen when a domain is hijacked. The hackers may take control of the website and use it for malicious purposes, such as spreading malware or conducting phishing attacks. They could also redirect traffic to other websites, resulting in lost sales or damage to your brand reputation. The hackers may even try to sell the domain name back to you at a higher price.

Companies that rely on their web pages for business, such as e-commerce and SaaS organizations, can lose revenue if they lose ownership of their domain, one of their most important assets. Domain hijacking is one of the most serious cybersecurity threats to internet organizations.

Once a domain name is obtained, hijackers can replace the original web page with an identical web page to gather sensitive data or personally identifiable information (PII). This may include account information, contact information (email addresses and phone numbers), social media accounts, IP addresses, or other data for identity theft or gaining unauthorized access to accounts.

How Can You Prevent Domain Hijacking?

Domain hijacking is a serious problem that requires immediate action. You can protect yourself from this type of attack by using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication whenever possible.

One of the primary reasons domains get hijacked is the registrant’s failure to implement sufficient security measures. When you register a new domain name, you gain access to its settings. In addition, phishing social engineering tactics, malware, keyloggers, or spyware can infect your systems and allow hackers to obtain access to your domain control panel.

Furthermore, these records contain a range of personal data, such as names, email accounts, and other contact information associated with controlling a domain. Hackers may locate information about you and your domain name on the Internet. WHOIS information is a tool widely used for querying databases that store data regarding your online resources.

It’s also important to stay vigilant about any suspicious emails or activity on your account, as these could be attempts at stealing login credentials for malicious purposes. Hide or use alternative login details for your domain owner’s profile and the domain management system to reduce your cyber exposure, if feasible.

It’s wise to create backups for all content related to your domain so that even if it does get hijacked, there will still be copies available elsewhere. Finally, make sure any web host provider or registrar has proper security controls in place (such as two-factor authentication) before signing up with that provider. Otherwise, your site is at risk!

How Can You Recover a Hijacked Domain?

If your organization’s domains are hijacked, there are steps that you can take to restore control and protect your systems.

One option is to work with an experienced security firm to help investigate the incident, determine what happened, and provide recommendations for remediation.

Some other options include:

  • Call or contact your domain registrar, as it will most likely assist with this issue. If the registrar can verify that the domain transfer was fraudulent, it can return the domain to your control.
  • If the stolen domain was transferred to another registrar, request that your registrar implement the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Registrar Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy to reclaim ownership of the name.
  • Lastly, contact ICANN’s Domain Name System (DNS) Abuse Desk for help and guidance on how to recover your hijacked domain.

Protect Your Domain with ZenGRC

Automation is fast becoming a dependable and adaptable cybersecurity solution. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are getting faster and more effective at processing data and responding quickly to provide optimum protection against cybersecurity threats.

Instead of using spreadsheets, implement Reciprocity’s ZenGRC compliance, risk management, and governance platform to track and monitor risks. ZenGRC provides the tools you need for comprehensive risk management.

Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. The ZenConnect feature enables integration with popular tools such as Jira, ServiceNow, and Slack, assuring seamless adoption within your enterprise.

Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas. By better understanding your risk landscape, you can take action to protect your business from cyberattacks, avoid costly data breaches, and defend your domain.

In addition, Reciprocity’s Risk Intellect is a risk-analysis tool that provides insight on the impact of compliance programs on your cyber risk posture to prioritize activities that strengthen compliance while reducing risk.

ZenGRC offers an easy way to manage all aspects of compliance and risk management. Request a demo today!