Domain Name Front Running
I have just been the victim of Domain Name Front Running.
I did not even know it existed, or I had been a victim until it happened again and I was sure it wasn’t a coincidence….
I had a domain name “stolen” from me as I tried to purchase it.
What is Domain Name Front Running
Domain front running is when you search for a domain name to purchase but do not buy straight away, and a company registers the name and then tries to sell at auction or through a buy now for several thousands of pounds/dollars.
How did it happen and how did I know?
I was searching for a domain name to use for a new idea I had. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go through with this, but wanted to see what domain names were available. I checked on GoDaddy and a domain name I liked was available. I wanted a price comparison so check with my other registrar Heart Internet. Similar price, no preference between the two providers so all was good.
I happened to do some work for a client later that day who uses 123-Reg, and whilst on the site, thought I’d check out their price for the domain name. Similar again.
About half an hour later I decided to register the domain in case I want to take my idea forward, after all, it’s not much money. I went to GoDaddy to register the domain name but it was now showing as unavailable. I checked Heart Internet, again unavailable. Within less than 3 hours of my original search, this domain is now unavailable, however, it’s been available for years and never registered.
This is the second time, or maybe third, that this has happened. It started me thinking it’s not just a coincidence…
..So I did some research….
And found out about Domain Name Front Running.
Who was it????
The first thing I did was look at the whois query for the domain. I wanted to know who just bought the domain that was available a few hours ago.
Now, look at these dates.
I had, on the 10 October 2018, initiated my first search for this domain. It reported it was available. Look at when this domain entry reports being created – 2017-01-11.
This was one of the things that concerned me and initiated my research.
Apparently, domain name registrars can “register” domains for 3 months for a minimal charge if they think they can sell them. They have to pay back a small percentage if they return unsold. (I don’t know the costs/risks to them for this but it is a worrying concept)
If we take the 3 months they are able to hold them to sell them, from the expiry date 11-01-2019 that just happens to be exactly 3 months after my original search date.
It is registered to Tucows, with Name servers of Hover.com. Looking into it further, 123-Reg is part of the Tucows empire. (Their terms of service refer to Tucows)
Can anyone explain how this is legal?
You do a search for a website name and the registrars see the search and register the name you want and then try to sell it to you for thousands.
Please be aware of this when you want to buy a domain.
The main guidance I have found is using the command line and a Microsoft tool (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/downloads/whois) so you query the registry directly and not use a registrar to query the information for you. This way they cannot jump in and buy (loan) the domain.
I am not going to use 123-Reg, Tucows, Hover or any other company in their control while this practice is happening.
How is this not insider information?
Can I do anything about this? I’m not sure at the moment. If you know please let me know in the comments below.
If you’ve experienced this please let me know below.