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Mar. 25, 2014

What Is the ICANN Verification of Contact Information Process?

You know how when you get a new or updated credit card, you’re required to go through the process of activating it? You have to visit a website or call a phone number and walk through the credit card company’s authorization process.

Your credit card is unusable without the verification, which is done in an effort to prevent unauthorized use of your card.

Similarly, a process is now required by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for domain name registrations and updates. It is designed to protect you, the domain owner, from fraud or domain squatters.

Domains are an essential part of any business presence. In fact, some people might say that having a domain is now more important than having a toll-free number. For many customers, the domain is the entry point for your business. More importantly, if you don't update and renew your domain, your cyber presence could be put on hold, shut down or even taken over and held hostage. You must be sure to not only submit accurate information from the onset but also regularly update your contact information.

Why ICANN Wants to Keep in Touch

Updating your contact information seems like a trivial matter, but think about these scenarios.

If the person who registered your domain leaves the company, they have the ability to hijack your domain. If update notifications are going to an outdated email address, your domain could expire. Or a domain could be maliciously transferred to someone else if the contact information is not correct. These reasons and more help make the case for keeping contact information current.

As of January 2014, there are new ICANN processes in place that are designed to protect your domain, and they involve verification. Identity theft is something that plagues credit applications, so the end-user verification process is becoming more robust. Similarly, domains need to have an elevated level of validation and verification during the registration and renewal process.

A registrar is the primary point for the domain contact information. Typically, the registrar is a web host — the one who hosts the servers that a domain is pointed to. There are companies that are simply registrars. They don't provide hosting services but do allow you to manage your domain and where you want to “point it” (done by assigning the IP address to the domain). Registrars and web hosts are now required to obtain validation and verification of contact information associated with any domain.

Registrars are required to validate a variety of information, including:

  • The presence of data for all of the fields for the applicable country or territory
  • The proper email address format
  • The proper phone number format
  • The proper mailing address format
  • The addresses, to make sure they are "real" (e.g., street exists within the registered city)

Registrars are also required to verify information, including:

  • The email address — registrar sends an email, which will require a response, to the registered email address
  • The phone number — registrar will call or text a phone number requesting a response

This process now affects the three main contact sections within a domain's “Whois” record. These sections are: Registered Name, Technical Contact and Administrative Contact.

Always Maintain Accurate Contact Information

When your domain comes up for renewal, or if you are registering a new domain, it's important to ensure that the contact information is current and accurate. While some registrars offer privacy protection (so that your information isn't visible in the domain details; only the registrar’s is), you still need to make sure that the registrar has your current information.

Why is it important to keep the information accurate and up-to-date? There are a variety of reasons, including:

  • To allow the domain owner to be traced by registrars, intellectual property owners, law enforcement and consumer protection agencies
  • To prevent cybersquatters (people who buy brand domains and then try to sell them off to the highest bidder or back to the brand or company)
  • To ensure that sites that may engage in unlawful activities can be shut down or investigated and associated points of contacts pursued
  • To stop domains from being placed "on hold" or temporarily suspended if the owners cannot be contacted (if a domain is put on hold, it can sometimes be costly to reactivate)

One of the most important reasons to keep your domain contact information current is to avoid losing your domain altogether. If your domain registration expires and, due to outdated contact information in the Whois record, no expiration notices are received, it’s highly probable that a domain squatter will snatch up the domain once it becomes available and then try to sell it back to you for an outlandish price.

So when your domain registrar (often your hosting provider) sends you an email to update your domain contact information, don't ignore or delete it. Registrars are now required to notify you. It is for your own protection and ensures smooth online business processes by not losing that cyber lifeline tied to you and your organization.

[image: Wavebreak Media/ThinkStockPhotos]

ABOUT THIS CONTRIBUTOR
Michael Sheehan is a technology expert with a passion and expertise for cloud computing, enterprise IT and gadgets.
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