What is domain hijacking?
We use the term to mean a situation where a third party (“hijacker”) gains control of a domain name by unauthorised means. This is literally domain theft. The hijacker deliberately steals a domain name from its existing owner. And moves it to a new registrar. The hijacker has most likely committed a criminal offence.
It is different to where someone registers a domain name to target a competitor. The competitor may of course be aggrieved. And it may well have a case to recover the domain name. See domain name disputes. But this is not “hijacking” in the criminal sense of the word.
How common is domain theft?
Domain theft happens more often than you might think. Usually the hijacker gains control of the stolen domain by somehow finding out the domain registrant’s password for the stolen domain name. Perhaps the domain owner has used the password for other online services, which have become compromised.
How can you recover a stolen domain name?
Our aim when acting as lawyers for domain hijack victims is to make a strong approach to the relevant domain authority / registrar / reseller. And to persuade them to hand back the domain name without the need for expensive legal action. The domain bodies tend to be worried about their legal liability for taking the domain away from the new owner. Our role often involves putting forward a comprehensive and compelling legal and factual submission. Which is designed to convince them to return the hijacked domain name without court.
Reverse domain name hijacking
Domain name hijacking should not be confused with “reverse domain name hijacking”. This a very particular scenario which crops up in certain domain arbitration systems. The word “reverse” is important. By making such a statement, the arbitrator is criticizing the behaviour of a complainant, i.e., not a domain registrant. For example, the arbitrator may think that the losing complainant knew that its case was hopeless. Or perhaps that it had concealed evidence. Or that the complaint otherwise somehow acted in bad faith in filing its complaint.