Who Has Your Key? Locking Your Domain Names


When you’re building your house, your builder might need a key for a while, but they certainly don’t need it after the job is finished and you’ve moved in. In many ways, you should think of your website domain name password in the same way as the keys to your home.

The pitfalls of letting someone else have the keys

It’s very common for web designers and developers to provide packages which involve doing everything on behalf of their clients, including registering their domain name for them. Web site owners need to be careful about taking advantage of these ‘all-in-one’ style packages when it comes to protecting their domain names for a couple of reasons.

1. Sometimes you don’t own the domain name

Once in a while, when designers or developers obtain the rights to the domain names, they name themselves rather than their clients as the registrants. In other words, the owner is listed as ‘ABC Web Design House’ rather than the actual owner of the web site. This would obviously be an issue that needs to be addressed.

It’s usually quite easy to work out what details have been registered. For Australian-based domain names (i.e. anything ending in ‘.au’), visit the AusRegistry website, and type in your domain name. For ‘.com’ web sites, you’ll need to visit Whois.net instead.

If you find that you haven’t been registered as the owner of your domain, it might be time to ask your designer a couple of questions, and even contact an IP lawyer with experience in domain name disputes.

2. Sometimes you don’t control the web site

More commonly, designers and developers register the web sites in the correct name (i.e. the name of their client) but they’ll keep the administration of the domain to themselves. This means that they use their own domain name registrar, and keep the login and password details.

This means that someone else effectively controls your web site: from where it’s hosted and what it displays, to who can access emails. If the client is unhappy with the service they’ve received, or if the client simply wants to change where the web site is hosted, the designer or developer might refuse to allow it to be removed, or might shut down the site, or refuse to make changes. These situations are typically messy and completely avoidable.

Doing it yourself isn’t that hard

The best way to proceed is to register your domain name yourself. Just visit an accredited domain name registrar and register your domain name.

There are a few steps to registering your domain name, and you can find helpful tutorials on the web. Your designer or developer can then tell you what details you need to record in relation to the web site, including where it will be hosted. They certainly don’t need access to the passwords and NIC handles etc to do their work.

Who has a spare key?

Finally, check through your emails to see whether your web designer or developer sent you the details of your domain name registration. If they haven’t done this, perhaps a polite email asking for them to send you the details would be in order.

Once you have the details, you can quietly change the passwords to ensure that you’re the only one who controls your domain.