Cybercriminals Are Misappropriating Businesses’ Web Addresses

As a Result, Customers Can’t Find the Real Companies on the Web

Cybercriminals targeting businesses are stealing more than customer passwords and credit-card numbers these days. Some are misappropriating the very Web addresses—or domain names—of the businesses themselves.

When Pablo Palatnik of Miami glanced at a Google analytics report showing Web traffic on his office TV monitor one day last month, he was alarmed to discover that traffic to his business website,, had plunged 80% from its usual level of as many as 10,000 visitors a day.’s domain name was diverted to China by cyberthieves, Shown, Pablo Palatnik, the firm’s founder, who has reclaimed the site. Photo: Josh Ritchie for The Wall Street Journal

At first, the 32-year-old entrepreneur suspected a server had gone down. But after digging further, he discovered a more serious problem. A cyberthief had diverted his company’s domain name—the very Web address that’s critical to his firm’s online sales—to China.

That meant that potential customers surfing the Web for Oakley, Ray-Ban, Versace and other popular sunglass brands couldn’t find his eight-year-old Internet retail business. “I never thought someone could steal the domain from us,” he says.

Mr. Palatnik’s experience underscores a little-noticed and growing security risk for business owners. Thieves can hijack domain names and transfer them to such places as China, Eastern Europe and Russia in what appears to be “organized criminal activity,” says Philip Corwin, counsel to the Internet Commerce Association, a trade association for domain-name investors and developers. Read on as Adapted from the

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