Don`t Lose Your Domain to Hijackers! - Some Horror Stories
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Probably the most famous case of domain name theft was sex.com. Stephen Cohen stole Gary Kremen’s domain name, sex.com, by sending Kremen’s registrar a fake transfer letter from a non-existent executive at Kremen’s company. The letter was addressed to Cohen, and included the following rather fishy instruction: “Because we do not have a direct connection to the Internet, we request that you notify the Internet registrar on our behalf, to delete our domain name sex.com. Further, we have no objections to your use of the domain name sex.com and this letter shall serve as our authorization to the internet registration to transfer sex.com to your corporation.” This happened in 1995, so perhaps it didn’t sound as strange for someone owning a domain name to not have direct access to the Internet as it does today.
It took five years and a district court ruling for Kremen to get his domain name back. By then he’d lost millions of dollars in potential profit. In compensation, the judge ruled that Cohen was liable to Kremen for $65 million. It is not known whether Kremen has been able to collect.
Panix.com was the victim of another high-profile case of domain hijacking. In early 2005, the New York-based ISP’s domain name was transferred by an unauthorized person to Australian Internet registrar MelbourneIT. About 5,000 of Panix’s customers had their email service disrupted for several days. The company was able to regain control of its domain fairly quickly, thanks in part to the fact that the hijacking caused a major outcry and received a lot of media coverage.
Other stories don’t end so successfully. Frederick Harris planned to create a business that provided email services for cooperatives that wanted an online presence without going to the trouble of building and maintaining a website. He registered “email.coop” through February 2004. But his domain name was stolen shortly after he registered it, apparently by the registrar itself. ICANN had authorized the National Business Cooperative Association to sponsor .COOP and to operate the registry. At the time Harris registered his domain name, the NBCA had authorized only one company, Poptel, to serve as its registrar. According to Harris, when he reported the theft to a Poptel manager, he was told to “get lost.”
Poptel no longer exists in the form it was when Harris registered his domain name. And there is more than one registrar for .COOP now. The email.coop domain is listed in whois as belonging to a Canadian named Sam Ahad, and appears to be offline.
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