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Secure Your Domain

Secure Your Domain

July 6, 2006
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" monitor your traffic and check the WHOIS directory from time to time "

One of the most valuable assets that an adult webmaster has — even more valuable than their content — is their domain name. Your domain name is your brand, and like Wheaties cereal, it hopefully has a following. For instance, imagine suddenly owning the domain www.barelylegal.com or maybe www.clubjenna.com, let alone www.playboy.com. Just this ownership alone would guarantee a huge stream of revenue each month as traffic flows to whatever content you provide.

It is traffic that is the ultimate payoff for the adult webmaster on the Internet, and all traffic comes from user requests to DNS computers (Domain Name Servers) for IP addresses that belong to specific domain names. These DNS servers make up the Internet. Since millions of DNS requests occur for popular websites, there are criminals that will seek to redirect this traffic, thus stealing your domain's traffic and customers.

And while hijacking someone's domain traffic is illegal, this doesn't stop sophisticated attacks against Internet servers, spoofing browsers and search engines to send your customers and new traffic to someone else. The law also doesn't stop people from legal methods of taking your domain name, such as grabbing your domain name the instant it expires.

Expiring Domain Names
Perhaps the most common way domain names are taken from individuals is through the legal method of simply waiting until a domain expires and then paying a service to immediately grab the domain and register it. Therefore, the first rule of protecting your domain name is making sure it doesn't expire. Even if you try to register your website a day after it expires, an automatic program may already have beaten you to the punch.

To see your own domain name's expiration date and registration information, visit: www.internic.net/whois.html

By default, your domain name is registered as belonging to you. Anyone can look up this information at the above link in the Internic WHOIS directory. Many times nefarious individuals will call large hosting companies or domain registrars and attempt to pose as the individual owning the domain. The best way to combat this, of course, is to register your domain anonymously and with a credit card so your domain registrar can easily verify you.

The best defense to having your traffic or even your domain name hijacked is to monitor your traffic and check the WHOIS directory from time to time. You also might want to consider registering the .biz, .org or even the new .eu prefixes for your website. Many times search engines will mistake your website for another with a similar name.

The Birthday Attack
One of the most common methods used by hackers for stealing traffic from a domain is a brute force method called the Birthday Attack. What the attacker does in this instance is send a flood of packets pretending to request your domain's IP address, and then send a flood of fake responses — giving an alternate IP address for your domain.

The Birthday Attack is not performed on your web server — this attack hits the Internet's BIND (Berkeley Internet Domain Name) software. The BIND software is Unix software that forms the backbone of the Internet. Whenever I type in www.xbiz.com on my browser, a BIND server somewhere on the Internet returns the proper IP address.

When a user normally requests the IP address for a site such as XBIZ.com, a Transaction ID is associated with that request. When the DNS server transmits a response with the same Transaction ID, the user is then sent the IP address, which guides their browser to the site. If a hacker sends enough random packets and false responses, they can actually "hit" the Transaction ID of the real user and thus pirate domain traffic.

The Birthday Attack is thus named because of the surprising statistical fact that, for any group of 23 random people, the odds are that two of them will share a birthday. In the case of the Birthday Attack, a "birthday" for the hacker is when their fake transaction ID matches a real user's Transaction ID packet. At this point, the user is routed to wherever the hacker fancies. The Birthday Attack is a brute force attack based on generating random transaction IDs that match user requests, thus out-messaging a real DNS server on the Internet.

Spoofing
This type of attack attempts to steal traffic from your domain by simply analyzing the Transaction IDs of a given DNS server. Many times the random number generation won't be random, and thus a hacker will write an algorithm to generate as many probable Transaction IDs as possible.

With Phase Space Analysis Spoofing, or with the Birthday Attack, the payoff for the Internet pirate is the redirection of traffic to their site. In some cases, this could be another adult site there to lure away business from the original website.

As we can see, the adult webmaster depends on the DNS servers of the Internet, so that search engines and browsers will direct business to his site. Yet attacks also are dangerous to consumers of adult content, since spoofing DNS can allow a hacker to set up a similar-looking site that the consumer will trust as the original. Once this trust occurs, a user might log into a fake redirected site and be prompted to re-enter credit card information.

Preventing Attacks
Webmasters can do little to prevent all-out attacks against the DNS servers that run the Internet. Yet they can protect their own domain names. One method that does thwart a number of attack scenarios is to use SSL to authenticate browsers on your web server.

Another thing a webmaster can do is look for DoS attacks (Denial of Service) in conjunction with an attempt to hijack domain traffic. These attacks sometimes accompany the above described attacks, since the hacker wants more valid Transaction IDs to hit their site than yours.

Sadly, unlike a book and its copyright, which lasts almost forever, webmasters must constantly guard their domain names simply because domain names are so valuable. Don't be complacent. Knowing that the above attacks are possible is half the battle.


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