Why Turning Over Your Registrar Login is a Terrible Idea
Your domain name is a vital part of your company's assets
Occasionally I still get requests from companies for our registrar login and password under the guise of “we have to have it to do our job”. Most companies won’t try this, but it still happens. Usually it comes from agencies that are used to dealing with motorcycle dealerships where, unfortunately, they can get away with this type of request.
It is important as a dealership (or any business) that you understand domain ownership and that you handle it yourself. Your domains, like your trademarks and other I.P. is part of your corporate assets and has significant value. Registering your own domain is a simple matter, usually very inexpensive, and something you should find easy enough to complete. Among the many “don’ts” in digital marketing there are a few big ones, and right up near the top is letting your website developer register/own your domain. Just say no.
This most recent request for full access/ownership of a website domain stemmed from a change to our Polaris Slingshot rental program. For a little bit of background, iMotorsports was one of the first dealers to rent Slingshots. Our website was built on the domain chicagoslingshot.com and we contracted it out ourselves to VEVS (vevs.com). They were great to work with and did a really good job considering we had a lot of time-consuming needs. There were multiple goals, one was to generate a revenue stream from rentals that would support the expenses necessary to run it and generate a small profit. The primary goal was to generate substantial website traffic for the sale of Slingshots, and to introduce more people to the product so they could enjoy it. The first two years were very successful.
Polaris caught on to the idea and brought it in-house, putting their considerable corporate resources towards the goal of making the rental program available to all dealers that were willing to implement it. They made the deal much sweeter, providing the Slingshots for the season, providing insurance and a single source of paperwork for customers. It also meant giving up our website and using the company they had chosen. We received purpose-built kiosks the first year and while it was a little rough, overall it performed well. The next year there were changes and we kept with the program in Chicago but dropped it in Florida.
Finally, at the end of the season in 2019 Polaris let us know that they had chosen a new website/program provider to implement improvements. The company was FareHarbor. The first contact they had with us was to request full access to our domain registrar.
The best way I can explain our response is to give an example. Let’s say you hired somebody to mow your yard. They told you they couldn’t do their job without a copy of the keys to your house and a copy of the property title. What would you say?
That response is exactly the response you should give any company who wants the login credentials for your domain registrar. Remember there is only one piece of information that needs to be changed when you update your website provider, and that is easily done yourself. That one, single update is to the DNS server. It is as simple as updating the phone number on your bank account. Type in the new number or name, and then hit save. Simple, fast and safe. Your website provider/host will tell you what that number is and all you must do is make the change.
So if it is that simple why would someone try to obtain your login credentials in the first place? Let’s look at some of the problems it can cause.
- Once the company has your login and password, they have absolute control over your domain name. They can assume control and shut down not only your website but your email. This is not a temporary problem; they can shut it down for months or even years. What happens if you have a dispute with them? Maybe the website does not function, is not reliable or some other problem. You dispute the billing; they hold your domain name hostage.
- They can steal the domain and it will take you months of arguing, and attorney fees to get control returned to you. With that kind of leverage its most likely you will cave and pay the demands.
- If you have multiple websites and domains under that same registrar account they have access to all of them. Multiply these problems times all those domains.
Let us look at point number 3 in a little more detail. You may own multiple domains for different reasons. Maybe you have several dealerships, or several businesses. We own a hundred different domains. Some of those are as an investment, but many of them were bought with an eye towards future business development, expansion and marketing efforts. In an instant, someone who has access to your registrar account can see not only your existing business structure, but the future plans you are considering.
I hope this article has given you some idea about the value of your registrar information. There are a lot of companies out there that fail to realize how valuable this piece of property is to their business. Protect it, just like you would any other asset.