WCC14 Domain name privacy for small businesses

Your business does not want to be caught in the embarrassing position in which Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, recently found himself. His domain name registration information was easily located in WHOIS. His personal address, phone number and email address were there for anyone to see.

Domain names are a must-have in today’s business world. Many businesses own multiple names, even if they only use one actual website. Some businesses neglect to ensure privacy of the registration information, unfortunately. A personal address, email address or phone number are visible to anyone looking, unless the WHOIS data is marked private.

What is WHOIS?

WHOIS is a protocol used on the Internet. It is not one massive centralized database. Rather, WHOIS can refer to information that is collected at the time a person or business registers a domain name, to the actual protocol, or to the WHOIS services that provide public access to domain name registration information. If you want more information on WHOIS, here is a link to a WHOIS Primer that provides details. https://whois.icann.org/en/primer

When a person or a business decides to own a specific domain name, it has to be registered with a registry who must gather certain information. That information is then maintained in the registry’s database. In turn, that database is searchable. If a person or business wants to keep their contact information private, they can arrange privacy service with their domain name registry. Some, such as Go Daddy, offer this as an add-on service. Others include the service in their domain name registration service and price registration as a bundled package.

What Your Business Should Do

Businesses should be transparent on many things. Transparency of private information is not the right thing. Listing a personal name, especially if your business name includes your personal name, and the related personal contact information, just creates unnecessary risk of cybercriminals gathering information about you. Talk with your domain name registry customer service group, or your cybersecurity specialist to ensure that your domain name information is private. The price is small for the added security it provides your business.

While you are focusing on domain name activities, consider searching for domain names that are similar to your business name. For a small investment, you can purchase domain names (and privacy of contact name details). This can help prevent others from leveraging your market reputation by using a website that sounds like yours. Services such as WHOis.net provide available domain name options.

About the Author - Carolyn Schrader is a seasoned cybersecurity professional and founder of the Cyber Security Group Inc., providing corporate cybersecurity services to high profile clients.

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