How to Crush the Spam After Registering a New Domain Name
If you’ve ever had a home or car loan, you know that junk mail and spam calls seem to come with the territory. The same thing can happen when you register for a website domain name. Suddenly, everyone has a good deal for you, or wants to help you save more. But you probably weren’t expecting spam to come at you from all sides, from your inbox to your voicemail and mailbox. It doesn’t take long for that new domain name to look like a nuisance.
So what’s going on? Is your domain registrar selling your information? If they’re a reputable provider, the answer is ‘no.’ However, there is more going on behind the scenes when you sign up for domain hosting and register a new domain name.
After you register a domain, your information is collected in a database called WHOIS, which records who owns each domain. The information includes your mailing address and other details. Anyone can look up domain owners and see that information with a few clicks.
However, WHOIS can actually help protect you in the online world. According to the ICANN WHOIS website, WHOIS isn’t an acronym, but literally means “Who is” responsible for a domain name or IP address. The service isn’t a centrally-operated database, but rather collects information from registrars. WHOIS may sound intrusive, but it’s actually helpful in maintaining the integrity of legitimate registrations. It would be difficult to know whether or not a given domain is available without WHOIS, and it can help with things like an incident response after a cyber attack. Law enforcement uses WHOIS in their cases, and it can help in investigations of cyber crime.
But just because WHOIS is designed to help with the credibility of domain registration doesn’t mean it doesn’t attract less-than-desirable activity. Spammers and questionable digital marketers look for new domain registrations to target people for business offers. It’s also possible hackers are using the information to target unwitting bloggers and small business owners for malicious purposes.
While WHOIS can help keep you safe, it’s also not unusual to experience some kind of annoying spam after registering a domain. Fortunately, it can be stopped almost completely and even crushed. Here’s what to know about your online privacy and what to do about endless spam.
Opt-out of WHOIS
There’s a possibility you can opt out of WHOIS altogether and stop spam before it starts. The good news is individual and noncommercial .uk domain names are automatically opted out of WHOIS by default. However, there are very narrow qualifications you must meet in order to opt out. WHOIS opt-out is not available for domains with commercial purposes – only individuals can potentially opt-out. The automatic opt-out is also only available for .uk based domains, which doesn’t really help the majority of the population.
Regardless of whether or not you opt-out of WHOIS from the UK, it’s also possible your registration information will pop up on other sites that you’re unaware of. So while opting-out for UK domains can be helpful, it’s not a catch-all to crush spam after registering.
Register Domain Privacy
The best way to protect your identity is to register for domain privacy through your hosting provider. The service usually runs around $9.99 annually and protects your personal information. However, it’s important to note that your information is still stored in WHOIS.
Once you sign up for the privacy service, your domain registration information, such as technical and billing data, is masked with generic information. You still have full control of your information, but all of the details are now hidden from the general public. It’s still possible for people to request to see your domain’s contact information. Your registrar will forward the request on to you, but you can simply choose not to respond if you wish.
Domain privacy is a valuable and effective way to combat spam, but it may not be necessary depending on your situation. Individuals will probably benefit from the added protection, but companies may not. All of your business information will already be listed on your website, and may even deter potential customers who are looking for more information through WHOIS. They want to know you’re fully transparent with your business and that you are who you say you are.
In most situations, paying for domain privacy is the key piece to ensuring spam doesn’t follow you after registering a domain name. However, there are other steps you can take to reduce any lingering spam that comes along with lurkers noticing new websites coming online.
Increase Your Email Privacy Settings
What’s going on in your inbox can have significant impact on your online privacy. Take back control over your online privacy by increasing your email protection. Look at your spam filters and make adjustments to increase your inbox protection to stop junk mail in its tracks.
The filtering options look a little different depending on your email interface, but they should all offer junk email protection. In Outlook, click on the ‘Actions’ tab, scroll down to ‘Junk Email,’ and from there, you can change the filtering from ‘Low’ to ‘Safe Lists Only.’
Image: IT Vanderbilt
However, be aware that you can sometimes block well-meaning email from people you actually want to hear from. This can be especially problematic if you’re running a business and are hoping to hear from leads and potential customers. It’s wise to occasionally check your junk mail folder to see what’s getting caught in your filter.
Protect Your Website
It’s possible for spammers to find your website outside of WHOIS – and they will target your website directly. Hackers and malicious spammers often look for vulnerable entry points into your website where they can add malware. Malware is short for ‘malicious software’ and is often hard to detect when it’s present on your site until it’s too late. In some cases, your hosting provider can suspend your account if you don’t maintain a clean website free of malware. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Security services like SiteLock can help scan files to remove malware and protect the integrity of your website.
But there’s more to safeguarding your website than just combatting malware. You also need a way to restore your files if they’re ever compromised. Part of protecting your website requires regularly backing up your files. Your dashboard or cpanel offers tools to backup your website. If your site is ever hacked, blacklisted or goes offline, you can always restore your files from a previous backup.
Stay Alert to Phishing Scams
If you’ve been following along with the steps above, your website and email should be largely protected from spammers trying to worm their way into your inbox and files. However, this isn’t the time to let your defenses down because it’s always possible that spam could still land in your inbox. Stay alert and be diligent about phishing scams. These emails often look like official correspondence from services you use every day like PayPal, Amazon and even from your hosting provider.
The trick is to always be suspicious if any email ever asks you to click on a link to login to your accounts, uses poor grammar, or alerts you to alarming news like your account being compromised. Delete the email and log into the account in question from a new browser window, and manually change the password just in case. It may also be necessary to call customer service to straighten out the situation. However, never rely on a potentially phishy email that leaves a phone number for you to call. You could end up calling a hacker directly and offering sensitive and personal details that will make the situation worse. Instead, manually Google the company you need to speak with and find a phone number that way.
Follow the Rules
There are several effective ways to crush spam before it starts, but there are also ways you can make your situation worse in the process. For example, never enter incorrect information for your domain when registering. Otherwise, your domain could be locked and seized by ICANN (internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Use your real information and rely on domain privacy instead if you don’t want anyone to see who you are without your consent.
It’s also tempting to quickly register a throwaway email address to register your domain name, but that can put you in dangerous territory. If the throwaway address gets cancelled or you lose the login information and find yourself locked out, you have no way to get in to your registration if you need to make a change. Further, if your website is compromised or the domain is cancelled, you also have no recourse.
And remember to always follow your hosting provider’s rules about maintaining your website and actively combatting malware. When you suspect spam, malware or suspicious activity directly on your website, contact your hosting provider to talk through the options and determine best steps to protect your files and online integrity.
Have you had issues with spam after registering a new domain name? Let us know about your experiences and what you did to combat it in the comments below:
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