Concerns over online privacy and data integrity are greater than ever. People accessing the internet want to know that their data is secure and that their privacy is intact. The reason is quite simple if you think about it. The internet knows way too much about us. From Facebook to Amazon, the internet holds all sorts of information about us. So, if you’re a website owner, it’s crucial to make sure that the data on your website is safe from hackers or threats of any sort.
However, what happens once you ‘let go’ of a website? Did you know that expired domains can come back to haunt you and your customers? Well, let’s take a look at a few websites.
Wildcatgroomers-dot-com, once upon a time, sold all sorts of equipment for snowmobile trails. Kavanaghsirishpub-dot-com was the website of a pub. Both of these websites now sell running shoes from Nike, Reebok, and several other brands.
To put it correctly, they appear to be selling shoes.
What they’re actually doing is stealing credit card information and selling this information on online black markets. Both these websites are expired domains with a considerable following. So, someone simply bought the domains once they expired and then started scamming people.
If that’s not bad enough, your own data can be at risk too. And we’re talking about important data here. Your email, social media accounts, and even financial records — everything can be at risk. To understand how it’s essential to know what exactly happens when you let a domain expire.
What Happens to Expired Domain Names?
For the purposes of this article, let’s say that you own a website called xyz.com. Now, on xyz.com, you share important details of your life and also sell a few products. After a while, you realize that the domain has served its purpose and you don’t have anything more to add to it. So, you don’t pay the fees to renew it and allow it to expire.
At this point, once your website or domain does expire, it’s available on the free market for anyone to register and own. There are websites that are dedicated to listing recently closed or expired domains. So, practically speaking, anyone can now own xyz.com. You had, over time, built up an audience and there are a considerable number of viewers who still visit the website. So, the new owner of xyz.com has a ready audience.
If the new owners have nefarious intent, they can simply convert it into an e-commerce website. If people like the product and proceed to the payment page, the website owner, through a few tools, can collect all their financial records.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.
Expired Domains — How they can hurt you:
Let’s say you used Google Apps for xyz.com when you were the owner of that domain. Now, the new owner can access your Google account too. The process is terrifyingly simple. All that the new owner has to do is go through the domain reclamation process. This will prove that they own the website and Google will then hand over the access of Google Apps to the new owner.
So, at this point, the new owner has access to all your Google Apps, including Gmail. Now, it’s just a matter of finding out all the other accounts that you have. Most websites send a mail for password change. If that happens to be your Gmail account, then all your other accounts are vulnerable too.
You might just end up buying some teenage hacker a new PS4 and a whole host of other things just because your domain was available in public space.
Disposing Expired Domains:
Generally, security experts all agree that the best way to protect yourself from the harms that an expired domain can bring is by simply not allowing it to expire. It’s best to just renew your domain even if you aren’t using it. Domain names don’t cost too much to renew. In fact, it’s a very small price to pay to ensure that problems don’t crop up at all.
However, if you have to let a domain expire, there are two groups that you need to protect: your customers/viewers and yourself. As far as protecting your customers is concerned, make sure that you inform them well in advance that you’re shutting things down. Tell them that it’s best to blacklist your old email id so that future owners don’t send you malicious content from an email id that they trust.
If you’re moving your website to another domain, then make sure that you give them the new email id before asking them to block the older one.
In the same breath, if you have vendors for your website, inform them as well.
Protecting yourself is going to be a slightly lengthier process. First off, make sure that you’ve unsubscribed to all the services that you’ve used. Then you will have to individually unlink every online account that you’ve used for the website.
This includes everything from Google Apps to AWS. Also, set up a Two Factor Authentication (2FA). This will require an SMS or some other form of authentication for any change to your email account. In essence, the idea here is to make sure that you leave no personal information for the next owner to access. If there’s no personal information easily available, hacking becomes extremely difficult.
Yes, there’s a chance that the next owner might not have nefarious intentions, but it’s always a good idea to be safe. Also, if someone’s scooping up your domain as soon as you get rid of it, chances are, they’re fishing for information. Stay secure and dispose of your domains carefully!
If you’re concerned about the security of your web hosting, then HostGator might be the right host for you. With HostGator’s Shared Hosting plans, you get extra security features like free SSL certificates. You can also choose to have services like Sitelock monitoring and spam assist. With Sitelock, your website will be scanned every day for potential site breaches or hacks.
To know more about the other web hosting categories and to choose the right option for your business, visit our Hosting Blogs Category.