From a security perspective, nothing should really take precedence and all aspects of your digital presence matter equally in determining how secure your business and your data can be. In that respect, companies that invest heavily, for example, in network security and malware protection, but fail to create multi-factor authentication for employees will most likely experience some security issues and potential data breaches. In the same spirit, those that forget to protect their domain name security will likely be at greater risk of losing sensitive business information and customer details.
That’s why every single company with a website, and thus, a dedicated domain name with public access needs to take domain name security seriously. Here, we are going to tackle a few most common security oversights for digital brands related to domain names that you should be mindful of and address in your overall cybersecurity strategy moving forward.
Why are domain names hijacked?
From your competitors’ perspective, your domain name is the perfect gateway to stealing customer data, or better yet, sending your potential customers to irrelevant sites and malicious ones when they try to visit your website. Many hackers use automated bots to achieve this, so it’s difficult to track down the culprit every single time, especially if they know what they are doing.
Taking over your domain name gives the hackers access to all the stored information and related analytics, and this “hijacked” address now becomes their tool for bringing your business down by sending customers away and plummeting your SEO score.
Although there isn’t too much financial gain in stealing a domain name, it definitely ruins your overall security efforts and derails your reputation. From a long-term perspective, however, a ruined reputation will definitely have a negative impact on your profits, and you’ll lose your customers’ trust. That is precisely why so many businesses are doing their best to invest in prevention, rather than intervention when it comes to hijacking. Other than this typical scenario of domain hijacking, there are a few other common scenarios you should prevent.
Phishing attacks and your email safety
When you think about phishing, you most likely imagine a situation where your employees receive emails where someone poses as a customer or partner and asks for sensitive information such as credit card details, address, and the like. However, hackers targeting domain names know that they can easily use your own website address as a way to pose as someone from your company sending emails to customers from your own database to ask for the same type of sensitive information.
In such instances, when a customer who trusts your brand and has previous interactions with your business sees an email with your domain name, they will be likely to give out such information. If you spot fraudulent activity with your domain name in time, then you might have the chance to inform customers and notify them that the emails aren’t coming from your business. Ideally, however, this type of a security breach should be prevented altogether, preferably with ongoing monitoring, applying specific security protocols, locking your domain name, etc.
Preventing registrar hacking
Large-scale and more advanced hacking operations out there won’t target merely individual websites and single domain names. They will go for the registrars that own the domain names and that store large amounts of customer information linked to those domain names. In essence, picking a trustworthy registrar with a trusted extension such as .com or .me is half the battle for companies of all shapes and sizes.
For starters, pick a name and an extension that elicit trust, such as a .me domain name combined with your brand’s name or your own personal name. The .me registrar you choose should use monitoring solutions to spot threats before they can do any damage, so that you know your site’s address is in safe hands, and that they utilize the latest security preventative measures for protecting their own business.
The more you personalize your domain, the lesser the chances are for someone to target it in a malicious way successfully – particularly if it’s guarded by a top-notch registrar. Talk to your provider about their built-in preventative measures to understand what you can do to add more security to your brand. While they can definitely keep your domain safe on their end, you also need to implement specific security measures to further protect your name and reputation.
The silly name says it all – typosquatting is a sneaky practice that’s no longer common solely among those trying to benefit from using a name similar to those used by popular brands. This is no longer just a problem for trademark legal experts, but for every business out there, because a fraud can easily use a similar domain name to yours and trick people into sharing sensitive data.
They can both misdirect traffic away from your business and use this opportunity to steal valuable business data. The best course of action is for your security team to carefully monitor brand names and domain names that are newly registered and in use, and to make sure that nobody is trying to use this strategy to affect your business reputation or to access sensitive information.
If you’ve built up a reputation for yourself, chances are that someone will try to “pose” as your business with a faulty domain name and try to contact people in your stead. This practice is a common issue that goes unattended by many brands, and customers feel scammed by your business even if you’re not technically at fault. That’s why ongoing monitoring is vital to help you prevent breaches, warn your customers of potential frauds, and the like.
Internal negligence and poor safety protocols
Last, but definitely not least important is the simple fact of human error – poor employee training protocols, no monitoring strategy in place, and an overall lack of control can lead to security breaches related to your domain name. For example, make sure that you’re using a VPN for your business, as well as strong password protection across the board, and multi-factor authentication for your employees.
Giving your team the right tools to ensure security from within your organization can prevent malicious attacks from a multitude of perspectives, your domain name included. Make sure that your security strategy includes a dedicated domain name security protocol that your security teams know how to monitor and manage with ease.
On that note, ongoing employee training is vital when you’re protecting your business assets, your domain name included. Everyone who has access to your domain name should have regular workshops with your dedicated cybersecurity specialists, to learn the latest best practices in how they handle your domain. Keep in mind that unsafe behaviors from your other employees can lead to a breach that can compromise everything, your domain included, which is why comprehensive security training for all your digital-oriented staff is essential.
Although you cannot claim all and absolute responsibility for the security of your domain name (some of it resides in the built-in preventative measures your registrar should provide), there’s plenty you can do to eliminate threats. The key step here is to make domain name security part of your overarching cybersecurity efforts, so that you can have full control over your digital interactions and communication.
Lauren Wiseman is a marketing specialist and contributor to bizzmarkblog.com. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in the fast-changing and demanding market, strongly believing in a holistic approach to a business.