domain highjacking
March 22, 2002 8:57 AM   Subscribe

domain highjacking this also recently happened to our friends at along with numerous other legitimate domains in the recent past... an outrage. the blood trail does not lead very far: heres what stinks my friends.... go to: .... then click on merchant accounts... and take a look at who the number 2 listing is.... oh, i bet verisign comes up a few other places as well .... thoughts? - i suggest a boycott of netsol and versign until appropriate action is taken or at least their support for this organization ceases.
posted by specialk420 (58 comments total)
is it hijacking if you forget to renew your domain and someone else buys it?
posted by panopticon at 9:08 AM on March 22, 2002

I though K10k let some of their domains lapse, intentionally, and that is the main address - am I wrong? I read that on MeFi somewhere in the last month.
posted by annathea at 9:09 AM on March 22, 2002

I believe the address for k10k is, so this would be more akin to using a close approximation of a well-known URL ( for, if not nefarious, then at least underhanded business purposes. The thing that I don't get is, how do these people stay in business? If I walked into a shop that serves a specific purpose and find that the name and facade have remained intact while something completely different is going on inside, I'd turn right back around. Who's actually falling for this crap and giving these pirates any money?
posted by shecky57 at 9:11 AM on March 22, 2002

call it what you want - it looks like "ultimate search" through hook or crook is finding popular domains the day they lapse - and nabbing them. the boys at k10k tried numerous times to renew their domain - after numerous errors (anyone who has ever used netsol can attest) - the domain suddenly lapsed and they lost it.... ahem. it sounds like the poetry society scenario stinks even more.... there is no defending this bs.
posted by specialk420 at 9:14 AM on March 22, 2002

When you register a domain, make note of the term you registered it for in a file or make yourself a calendar reminder (either with Outlook or on paper) to renew the domain a month or two before the term ends.

I can see why a business concern wouldn't necessarily know to do so and would just "trust the Web guys to tell them what to do when the time comes." It's unfortunate that there's a certain learning curve with domain/Web issues.

Anyway, who pays double or more to register domains with Verisign anymore?
posted by druzba at 9:14 AM on March 22, 2002

I don't know if netsol is responsible for this mishap, but I'm sure there are many instances in which the company is responsible. I refuse to do business with them.

That said, the first domain I ever registered is still registered thru them, to me. However, it's expired (I don't use the domain anymore)--yet netsol refuses to put the domain back into the domain pool, presumably waiting for someone to use their "make an offer" option so they can get more than $35 for it.

Along with, netsol is the worst company I've ever dealt with on the net. I would not be surprised if they were responsible for this "hijacking"--but as yet, I don't think there's proof of their involvement.
posted by dobbs at 9:16 AM on March 22, 2002

So, is this the reason why k10k has been out for so long?
posted by andnbsp at 9:16 AM on March 22, 2002

I don't think you people understand that this is happening not as a result of a failure to renew on the part of the client.

This was more than a technical problem. Thanks to an administrative lapse, the Poetry Society - or its internet service provider, Total Web Solutions - had not renewed its registration of the domain name, allowing Ultimate Search Inc, a Hong Kong based company, to purchase it and become the legal owners.

Read the article! This kind of shit happens all the time. A cool website all of the sudden disappears, because some two-bit "web solutions" company screws up, and the previous owner of the domain has basically no legal recourse, they have to hope the new owner (read: grifter) will sell them the domain back. At this point, it's merely immoral, not illegal, especially when judges come up with rulings like this one, especially since the legislature has not defined any of it as 'property'. You could then call the renewal fee sort of like paying rent, and losing your domain name akin to eviction.

Here's another example of blatant domain theft. via Network Solution Sucks
posted by insomnyuk at 9:28 AM on March 22, 2002

I can attest to using Netsol and they are BRUTAL. I remember trying to change DNS servers and it was a supreme hassle. I never did get it changed. I finally switched to I was scared to go back and use the crappy Netsol tools for so long I was surprised they let me change domain registrars. I would call for assistance and was put on perpetual hold.

OF COURSE when I called Netsol 'business solutions' extension I got through right away to a cheery e-business/e-commerce website sales person.

Netsol = Netshit

posted by kremb at 9:29 AM on March 22, 2002

Here's what I think is really happening.

There is a company that is montioring the recently-released domains list (it's available on many registrar's sites), and then cross checking each new entry at google. My bet is that they search for how many other sites link to that URL's root page, and if over a threshold, they automatically buy the domain and redirect it to their stupid search page.

I've seen a few weblogs succumb to this activitiy ( and both lapsed and were bought the day they lapsed), and I think the people do it for a very specific reason: they want the accidental traffic and ad impression revenue from the hundreds of sites linking to it already. Does this income outweight the 12 bucks or so they spent to buy it? Who knows. Does it outweight the money people may ask to have their domain back? Probably.

It's a seedy practice being done by some opportunists, but pretty far from illegal.
posted by mathowie at 9:31 AM on March 22, 2002

From the article:
Thanks to an administrative lapse, the Poetry Society - or its internet service provider, Total Web Solutions - had not renewed its registration of the domain name

These aren't domain thefts (those they occur from time to time), these are domain lapses then buyouts. To call them domain thefts or implicate NetSol in their wrongdoing undermines the real domain thefts like the debacle (which entailed faked faxes, hacked email, and phony phone calls to NetSol to steal a domain)
posted by mathowie at 9:33 AM on March 22, 2002

The big question: is K10K ever coming back?? I miss them a lot. I'm no coder, but they were great.
posted by UncleFes at 9:34 AM on March 22, 2002

Another thing is that Network Solutions picks and chooses which domains expire and which don't. I've been watching a domain name for some time. It is unused by the owner, and e-mails to the owner of the domain go unanswered. It expired several months ago, but still remains un-registerable. But other domains seems to go back on the block the second they expire.

I think Verisign keeps some of these domains in a backlog, hoping their owners will make what would assuredly be a big sale, on GreatDomains, another VeriSign company, which gives them more profit than the simple domain registration would have.

They've got a real racket going. Since they only have to maintain links to the primary DNS links, it is easy for them to sell 'a service' for a high price. Frankly, while everything is confined to their system for the main registry, I wouldn't use them as my registrar again on a bet.
posted by benjh at 9:38 AM on March 22, 2002

What if you had to renew your phone number every year, and if you were late someone else got it. Why is the internet, which was built by smart people, being run by dumb annoying people? Why isn't domain name registration easier and renewal unecessary?
posted by Outlawyr at 9:41 AM on March 22, 2002

its an outrage - i think we need to pepper netsol and verisign with our feelings about this... i hit my contacts there with a letter of disgust this morning.
posted by specialk420 at 9:50 AM on March 22, 2002

> What if you had to renew your phone number every
> year, and if you were late someone else got it.

You have to renew your phone number every month -- by paying your phone bill. If you let it lapse, somebody else does get it.
posted by jfuller at 9:56 AM on March 22, 2002

It really does suck, and it sucks more if these people are unaware that people will quickly register their domain if they let it expire. Which is why if I'm going to renew my domains, I do it months before they expire. I use, and they are pretty good. Also, dirt cheap.
posted by animoller at 9:57 AM on March 22, 2002

dobbs, I had a similar problem, I had two domains which were registered via a freebie company in '00, they expired and were held by that company and Verisign for a year, but they were finally released back to the domain pool yesterday, and I promptly registered them via So it takes anywhere from 90 days to a couple of years for domains to be available again.
posted by riffola at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2002

My company has recently been through this. What happened to us is that we own three versions of a domain name: .net, .org and .com and the admin responsible for keeping our registration current (she was listed as the contact and so should have received any emails from the registrar) was moving at the same time as the domain was expiring so part of it was that she wasn't paying attention. However, the registrar never sent a notice informing her that the domain was about to expire and someone had decided that they wanted our .net domain and was sitting on it, waiting for it to expire. Not only were they waiting for it to expire, they spider/downloaded the entire contents of that domain, costing us an additional $400 in bandwidth charges. We tried contacting the registrar within the 10 day grace period they gave us to renew the domain, but at no point did they return emails. When the new owner took over, every single page that had existed on the .net domain had been duplicated in name, but now the content was pay per impression porn ad banners.

The hijacker put up a page stating that the domain was now for sale for $500. We offered $50 for their admin costs and the $10 they paid for the domain. They said we only consider bids of $500 or more. We said fine and offered $500. They said screw you, it starts at $2000 *if* you pay us before we put it up for auction at which point it will start at $2500.

We investigated. Seems this particular person has done this numerous times: indexing a domain then sitting on the expiration/renewal time. We took them to ICANN's domain dispute mediator and won our domain back. It wound up costing us $1500 for the mediation alone, most of which we had to pay out of pocket, but some of the *rightful* domain residents donated some of their money too.

Cautionary tale, I suppose. But the fact is that while we were partially negligent, the registrar failed to do their duty and the domain hijacker made sure they damaged us as much as possible. Our .net domain is extremely well-trafficked, which is no doubt why it was targeted. And while we should have known anyway that the domain was expiring, it doesn't make it right for some sh*t for brains registrar and a repeated domain hijacking offender to take advantage of that.
posted by calyirose at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2002

The story makes it clear that an "administrative lapse" led to the loss of the Poetry Society's domain. In other words, they forget to pay the bill when it came due.

That sucks for them, but there's nothing illegal about buying a domain after someone else gives it up. It doesn't take much earnings to justify the $9-$12 yearly registration fee for a site like this, so I expect these kinds of sites to be around for a while.

What if you had to renew your phone number every year, and if you were late someone else got it.

Uh, Outlawyer ... you do. The phone company takes your number and the phone away if you neglect to pay the bill.
posted by rcade at 10:02 AM on March 22, 2002

There's a difference between a domain expiring and being released for re-registration. Here's a generic overview on what happens when a domain expires. I've noticed that domains seem to be "held" up to 90 days or so past expiration since most registrars release expired domains quarterly (rather than when they expire).
posted by dchase at 10:03 AM on March 22, 2002

But the fact is that while we were partially negligent, the registrar failed to do their duty and the domain hijacker made sure they damaged us as much as possible.

What duty did the registrar have, if you knew within the grace period the domain was expiring? People seem to expect a lot of handholding from their registrar when a domain is about to expire. Since the expiration date is in the WHOIS from the day you get the domain, it's not exactly difficult to figure out when the bill's coming due if you care to look.
posted by rcade at 10:07 AM on March 22, 2002

Regarding k10k, mschmidt explained the (sad) story of
posted by riffola at 10:12 AM on March 22, 2002

regarding the hibernation of K10K, reliable rumor has it they will re-open very soon.
posted by o2b at 10:21 AM on March 22, 2002

You have to renew your phone number every month -- by paying your phone bill. If you let it lapse, somebody else does get it.

jfuller, if you don't pay your bill you get a notice. A warning. That's exactly what didn't happen here, and should have. The phone company does not shut off your phone the first day your payment is late.

rcade, read the thread before posting.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:25 AM on March 22, 2002

This reminds me, some of my domains are will need renewing this year. Anyone have any recommendations, right now I am using, but $35 per year is steep. On a sidenote, it appears that someone has hijacked , it now points to a domain registration service.
posted by patrickje at 10:31 AM on March 22, 2002

I use BulkRegister. It's $12 a domain (less if you register a bunch each month) and costs a one-time fee of around $75 to join. The adminstration features on the site work great and they respond quickly to customer service e-mail.

rcade, read the thread before posting.

How did I manage to quote you if I didn't read the thread, Outlawyr?

Every domain registrar I have used sent a warning before a domain expired, and some even gave me a few days or a few weeks after expiration to renew the domain.

Even if they didn't, though. It's my responsibility to get my head out of my ass and keep the domains current. Not somebody I pay a couple of dollars to once a year.
posted by rcade at 10:43 AM on March 22, 2002

Hey KREMB, how in the world did you transfer the domain to if Netsol wasn't letting you do DNS modifications to it? Or am I misunderstanding you, in that you said "screw it" with that particular domain and just started registering all NEW domains with a different registrar?

Anyone, is it possible to CHANGE you registrar at all? I never knew you could do this. If there's any way possible at all to dump NetSol for the domains I currently administrate, by all means I will do it. Tell me how!

Network Solutions and every irresponsible peon within, *writhe assured* you will burn in a perfectly just and deserved hell when your time comes. Change your ways now and avoid it!! /!rant!/
posted by razorwriter at 10:43 AM on March 22, 2002

My recommendation: Dotster with it's $11.95 "transfer and a year" rate is excellent for switching from Netsol. Their $14.95/year reg/renewal is competitive as well.

Assuming you are the registrant of the domain that you want to transfer, making the switch to a new registrar is easy - it just isn't an instant thing. It can take a week or more, even if you do all the proper replies as soon as you receive them.

Dotster's online forms are easy to use and, if you own several domain names, they have timesaving tools that let you make bulk changes to whois records for all your domains (if you move or whatever). Anyway, give them a look.
posted by druzba at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2002

animoller: i'll second the props for they sent me notices eight, four and two weeks before my domains were set to expire.
posted by modge at 11:01 AM on March 22, 2002

I've transferred a domain from NetSol to Gandi, it's not that hard. It's roughly like this... you start the transfer with your new registrar, and they will inform NetSol, NetSol will contact you and ask you if you will allow the transfer, you have to send a reply saying you agree, then they allow your new registrar to take over the domain name. It takes about 36 hours if you are really lucky. It was much easier moving a domain from to Gandi.
posted by riffola at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2002

For those of you requesting registrar info, I recommend going with an international registrar such as the aforementioned or - I've used both for a couple of years, and have very much appreciated the service. Germany and France (where those two registrars are located, respectively) also have better domain legislation than the U.S., where the registered owner is not considered the "owner", per se, but the lessee, with the registrar (such as NetSol) considered the owner with final rights on the domain.

I just recently got my two domains finally up and running again after a year and half of trying to get the DNS info changed at NetSol. Now I'm in the midst of switching registrars - I hope it works.
posted by annathea at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2002

zeldman always has a way with words:

"Got a popular website? If your hosting company forgets to renew your domain, soulless Viagra merchants are likely to hijack it. This sorry fate befell our friends at, whose alternate is now a sewer of festering marketing excreta. Further staining the swiped domain’s rep, the clowns who hijacked K10k made a crude attempt to imitate aspects of the K10k pixellated style. May they roast perpetually in a little–trafficked corner of hell. More domain shenanigans below. "

hahahaha. zeldman rocks...... listen up netsol!
posted by specialk420 at 11:34 AM on March 22, 2002

i recommend $17 a year. password interface. quick response to tech/cust service questions.
posted by dobbs at 11:50 AM on March 22, 2002

This exact same thing happened to a website at, including the redirecting to Ultimate Search's page (although it says up at the top of the page, it says it is copyright Ultimate Search). The real pain with this kind of thing is finding out where the real site has moved to (in this case it was to which has an explanation posted), since google, etc. still all point to the previous address for some time.

Anyway, reading this thread began to make me feel paranoid over the loss of my domains, so I went to my registrar's website, and I see a link to this page, which is a sales-pitch for SnapBack, a domain "back-ordering" service, which lets you have snapback "attempt to acquire the name for you the millisecond it becomes available", for only $70. And, if that pesky domain holder re-registers his domain, you can then start monitoring another domain for no further fee. I especially like the fact that they recommend you use their service on your own domain names, since it "PROTECT[s] the name for one year against hacking, theft, vandalism, expiration, and more," presumably because "It's also the only way to prevent others from back-ordering your names."

On the registrar recommendation topic, I recommend DomainMonger, who I will have been using for about 2 years in a few months, during which time I have experienced no problems, and have found their web interface very easy to use. However, I have no experience using any other registrar, $17 is somewhat higher than others' prices, and most of them are all TUCOWS resellers anyway, so perhaps my recommendation isn't worth a great deal, but I plan on sticking with DomainMonger anyway.
posted by Nick Tamm at 1:14 PM on March 22, 2002

I also use and recommend domainmonger. Note that the $17 includes DNS, and they have a nice and simple interface for managing your own DNS records. That's saved me a bundle as my hosting provider always wanted 10 bucks for every DNS change.
posted by dchase at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2002

More info on - they charge 12 euros per year ($10.50 US) and you can either use their DNS or do what I do - use a free service like to handle your DNS-y needs.
posted by annathea at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2002

I *heart* Gandi. I've transferred domains from Netsol and registered new ones (four total) and I've never had a problem. They're cheap, too, so you can go ahead and get all those wacky domains you said you'd buy if they were cheaper.
posted by jennyb at 1:40 PM on March 22, 2002

and since the US-to-Euro exchange rate just keeps getting better for the US, domains from joker keep getting cheaper and cheaper...
posted by panopticon at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2002

Gandi says they buy domains in bulk from Verisign at US$6/domain. Of course they sell them for €12.
posted by riffola at 2:15 PM on March 22, 2002

I recently registered a domain with for $8.95! So far I'm pleased. Anybody who has more experience with
posted by Taco at 2:38 PM on March 22, 2002

I was pleased with Godaddy until I got locked out of my account. The forms on the site screw up, and I haven't been able to recover my password.

But the price is good, and they give you at least a two-month notice that your domain will expire. Just don't forget your password!
posted by lnicole at 3:08 PM on March 22, 2002

rcade wrote: What duty did the registrar have...?

Um...renewal notice, responding to *repeated* email requests for assistance since their registration pages refused to let us re-register during the grace period.
posted by calyirose at 4:08 PM on March 22, 2002

Registerfly is the cheapest ($10, $9 renewals) registrar that offers optional redirection (catch all email, url, frame, ip) and full online administrative options (dns, mx,..).
Godaddy is even cheaper ($9), but without the DNS/redirection.

Both are resellers of ICANN-accredited (which offer the same services as Registerfly for twice as much).
posted by c3o at 4:28 PM on March 22, 2002

A note on SnapNames:

Their service is called snapback, and for a $35/year fee (I think they raised it) they will use various means to acquire an expiring domain for you. How do domain owners combat this from happening? Subscribe first. Great business model--I wish I thought of it first.

I also wanted to add that I don't think this trend is necessarily all that bad. I truly believe in my experience with SnapNames, they are interested in creating a legitimate aftermarket for domain names. Eventually we won't have to be worrying about this problem. :)
posted by MarkO at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2002

Stay away from I've been with them about a year and a half. I recently upgraded to the CGI/Perl/SSI option, which is $45/6 months. Their server structure is so wacked that I can't get very many Perl scripts working right without doing some heavy hacking on the script. I've gotten Greymatter, Ikonboard, and some scripts that I've written way back when to work on it, but not much else. Their e-mail services are often down, and tech support replies average about 1.5 to 2 days. I've been looking into other options for the past few months. I think I'm paranoid about the host closing down without notice, leaving me and my readers in the dark until I start searching for another server.
posted by Kevin Sanders at 4:50 PM on March 22, 2002

Um...renewal notice, responding to *repeated* email requests for assistance since their registration pages refused to let us re-register during the grace period.

That sounds like a strange situation. If they never contacted you about the renewal and never responded to your e-mails, how did you know there was a grace period after it expired? Registrars are under no obligation to do that, as far as I know.

In any case, that registrar sounds terrible. Are you sure you were dealing with a real ICANN registrar instead of a company that is reselling domains using an ICANN registrar? Anyone can get into business these days selling domains.

I could start up one today using my BulkRegister account, sell domains for $10-$12, and never answer a single e-mail after collecting the money and registering the domain.
posted by rcade at 7:43 PM on March 22, 2002

Better than starting a campaign to makeup for someone's irresponsibilities, just FREAKING ABANDON DNS. No more things to forget that way. Less headache all around right? Who says letters are easier to remember than numbers anyhow?
posted by greyscale at 8:27 PM on March 22, 2002

rcade wrote: That sounds like a strange situation. If they never contacted you about the renewal and never responded to your e-mails, how did you know there was a grace period after it expired?

Their site had a notice describing the grace period, that's how we knew. That's why we tried contacting them within the grace period.

As for them being an accredited registrar, they were when we signed up with them. However, in the process of trying to recover our name we found that they had lost their status and were now simply a domain reseller for We immediately removed all of our domains from them. The registrar is and yeah, they're horrid.
posted by calyirose at 9:12 PM on March 22, 2002

Let the google bombing begin: Network Solutions sucks. That is all. :)
posted by canoeguide at 1:15 AM on March 23, 2002

One of my domains (registered via expired 3/19. I have no use for it but it still shows as being registered to me.

The sad part is that someone actually wanted to purchase it. But as their email was delivered to outlook express on a computer that crashed that day I was unable to respond.

I alost renewed just to re-sell it.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:18 AM on March 23, 2002

calyirose: Horrible situation. Have you told BulkRegister about it? I don't know how well they handle situations like that, but it's probably worth a try.

My apologies for my earlier failure to recognize the problem. A third-party registrar, who has to use an ICANN-approved registrar, could really screw over a domain registrant by failing to renew a domain. I wonder if you could've gone through BulkRegister to get it done when your registrar ignored your efforts.
posted by rcade at 8:31 AM on March 23, 2002

AOL Still Master Of Its Domains Despite Expirations: expired on Oct 04, 2001. expired on Dec 13, 2001. expired on Nov 22, 2001. expired on Dec 23, 2001. expired on Nov 17, 2001. expired on Jan 09, 2002.

posted by riffola at 9:02 AM on March 23, 2002

I mean I don't believe that AOL had a software glitch.
posted by riffola at 9:05 AM on March 23, 2002

Wow, there should be laws about this stuff... Having a half a year extra of domain registration is kinda like walking out of a candy store without paying for a candy bar... it's just not fair. Maybe it's just me, I don't know.
posted by Kevin Sanders at 9:23 AM on March 23, 2002

rcade wrote: Horrible situation. Have you told BulkRegister about it? I don't know how well they handle situations like that, but it's probably worth a try.

It is all resolved now. As I said, we went through ICANN's mediation process and it was (quite quickly) decided that the person that registered our domain did so in bad faith, had no legitimate business purpose for the domain, and thus had to give it back to us. Which they did. it was better that we didn't have to go through them since they have their own dispute process that would've been much more difficult for us to win.

Above someone mentioned something about a service that allows you to snap up a domain the second it expires. We figure this is what was done to us. Along with the downloading of the entire contents of the domain to duplicate all the pages. It was that last bit, in fact, that was a major factor in us winning the domain back. Clearly the new owner's intention was to get accidental traffic. And we also got points for the fact that while we didn't officially have a trademark on our domain name, we had several years of owning all the domain and being the only site out there using that particular configuration of words. Name branding/recognition and all that.

rcade also said:
My apologies for my earlier failure to recognize the problem.

No worries. I wasn't entirely clear. Thank you though.
posted by calyirose at 11:32 AM on March 23, 2002

My suggestion is to use the free 800 numbers on the ads of all these companies who advertise with Ultimate Search, and let them know that associating themselve with such losers isn't good for business. Its costing the idiots who paid Ultimate Search, and it lets them know that they can't expect to get away scott-free from such marketing campaigns...
posted by nomisxid at 5:42 PM on March 23, 2002

A little late for adding this comment, I suppose but beware, non-Verisign domain registrants. You may be getting something like this in the mail or by fax soon.

Seems NetSol, frumpy over no longer being the only domain registrar extant, is trying to win back some old customers. In extremely slimy ways.

(first comment here, so when you talk about this, and you will, be kind)
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:26 PM on March 25, 2002

« Older   |   Rabbit want pointer. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments