Are hackers able to use expired domains in order to steal data?

Online businesses can rebrand, pivot industries or merge with other firms. Old domain names are often abandoned when this happens. Although many business owners aren’t aware of the dangers associated with letting domains expire, hackers view expired domain names as valuable commodities.

There are currently 20+ million domains that have expired. Many of these domains are from businesses websites that have a strong customer base and recurring visitors.

Hackers can make a lot of money from such domains. They can set up fake shops on expired domains and put consumer data at risk.
It is important to keep track of the renewal date for your domain name in order to avoid this situation.

This article will explain what happens to a domain that expires and how it can impact your cybersecurity. It also provides four simple steps to ensure your domain remains secure. Let’s get started.

What happens to domain names that have expired?

Each domain is subject to an expiry date. Your domain name will become inactive if it expires. You won’t have access to your website or make any changes to your domain name.

Your domain can be affected by many factors after the expiration date. You can take this example:

  • Become a subject of domain squatting. This disadvantage is the most serious of domain names that have expired. Domain squatting is when an irresponsible person purchases an expired domain to resell it at an even higher price to someone who really needs it.
  • Domain names are sold at an auction. Some domains that have expired can still be valuable and attractive. Domain auctions websites are the solution.
  • Your domain will be returned to the registry. This means that your registrar will return your domain to the entity responsible for organizing all information about it.
  • Your domain name is being renewed by the domain registrar. You may be able ask your registrar for renewal.

It is important to be familiar with domain expiration timelines in order to avoid being left behind. Let’s take a look at the following:

  1. Before expiration. Your registrar will send you a lot of alerts as you get closer to the expiration date.
  2. Expiration day. You can ignore your registrar’s messages to get to this stage. All systems that are related to your domain will stop functioning at this point.
  3. Grace Period. During this phase, your domain will point to a domain park page. You can still renew your domain. Each registrar has a different grace period. It typically takes between 2 weeks and 30 working days.
  4. Redemption period. Your domain will be moved to this stage if it is not renewed within the grace period. Domain renewals cannot be done during this period unless the former registrar is involved. Most domain registrars charge fees for services such as renewing domain names during the redemption period.
  5. The redemption period. A domain name that has expired will be returned to its registry within five days. The name cannot be recovered after this time. The registry will then remove the name and make it available for claim by the first person to find it.

Some domain names also fall under the Auto Renew Only category. They are no longer available for retrieval once they have expired. It is wise to verify the type of domain you are purchasing.

What does the expiration of domain names have to do with cybersecurity?

Hackers can exploit a loophole in an expired domain name.

The new owner will be able to quickly access your information if you have your expired domain name integrated to Google Apps. The domain reclaim process will show that the current owner is the rightful owner.

A domain name that is expired could also be used to create a fake online shop. Hackers could set up fake eCommerce websites using expired domains in order to steal user information or get money.

This situation could have devastating consequences for your business’s image. The domain name is tied to your online shop, so your business could be accused of data theft.

Five ways to secure your domain names

It is important to implement security measures to protect your domain. Let’s take a look at four easy strategies that will help you protect your domain name.

1. Renew your domain name registration

A domain name purchase is not a one-time transaction. You can use the domain name for one year after you purchase it. You must renew your domain if you wish to keep your ownership.

Domain registrars may grant renewals for up to ten year periods. This allows for a smooth renewal process and peace of mind. If the ten year period expires, you may forget to renew your domain name manually.

Setting up a reminder is the best way to avoid losing your domain. This will reduce the chance of your domain being lost due to expiration.

2. Allow auto-renew to be enabled

Auto-renewal can be a great feature that will help you to keep your domain name safe.

Many domain registrars have auto-renewal set as default for all newly registered domain names. It is important to remember that this setting should not be taken as a given.

You can enable the auto-renew option as soon as your domain has been registered. The auto-renew usually takes place within 30 days of the expiration date. This means that the auto-renew option will not be available for 30 days.

3. Keep your registration information up-to-date

This is where you update your contact information in your domain registrar. Your registrar should be notified if you have changed your phone number, email address or office address. This is so that your registrar will know where to contact you in case of suspicious activity.

It is also a good idea to provide emergency contact information to your registrar. The other person can retrieve your domain name account if one of you loses their credentials.

4. Use domain privacy protection

All domain names registered will be stored in the WHOIS database. The database not only tracks active domains but also organizes ownership information. This information includes domain registrants, email addresses and phone numbers.
Domain privacy protection protects your personal information against various cyberattacks. You can stop hackers sending spam emails or making phone calls on your behalf. It can protect your website against DDOS attacks.
One of the best ways to increase security for your domain name is to contact your domain registrar. Anyone who needs to know the details of your domain name must first speak to the registrar.

5. Lock your domain

Domain locks, also known as registrar locks, are domain security enhancements that prevent unauthorized domain transfers. It is an important security measure that you should take to protect your domain from hijacking.

After purchasing a domain name and making it active, you will see the Lock/Unlock option in your domain management system.
There are also two strategies that you can use in order to increase your domain lock efforts:

  • Allow registry locking. This will prevent anyone, even your registrar from making any changes to the domain name servers’ information, without a registry’s authorization.
  • Protect your AIC. You will receive an unique code known as an Authorization Information Code (AIC) when you register a domain. This code is vital for domain transfer.


Cybersecurity issues can arise from expired domains. Hackers could use your domain to create fake online shops and frame you for data theft. If you allow your domain name to expire, it is also a risky business venture.

Let’s take a look at five ways you can keep your domain name safe:

  1. Renew your domain name registration. Do not wait for the end of the grace period. The earlier you renew your domain name the better.
  2. Enable auto-renewal. This ensures renewal within 30 days of the domain’s expiration.
  3. Keep your registration information up to date. If your domain is changed in an unauthorized manner, your registrar will be able to reach you.
  4. Protect your domain privacy. Asking your registry to hide your contact information will prevent hackers from stealing it.
  5. Lock your domain. This security measure helps to prevent unauthorized domain transfers.

It is recommended that you keep track your domain name’s renewal dates. Let your domain expire is the best way to lose it. Good luck!