But some domain providers say concerns about fraudulent transfers are overblown, noting that ICANN's guidelines still require registrars requesting a transfer from another provider to seek approvals. If all the new ICANN rules are followed, the domain owner should be required to approve any changes with the new registrar - but not their current registrar.
"Much of the fear regarding this change in policy stems from the assumption that a Gaining Registrar will be violating the policy and submitting requests that have not been properly validated," DynDNS notes in a message to customers. "It is our firm belief that no registrar is going to do that, as it would likely result in the termination of their accreditation by ICANN if performed on any significant scale."
Other registrars appear more concerned, and are advising customers to lock domains ahead of the new ICANN policy, which places stricter guidelines on how "losing" domain registrars handle transfer requests. Domain locking prevents changes in the registrar, contact information and nameservers for a domain, and is offered by most registrars.
One change mandates that if a current registrar does not reject a transfer request within five days, the request is automatically approved. The rules state that losing registrars may not deny a transfer request simply because there has been no response from the domain contact. Acceptable grounds for denial include fraud, an ongoing domain name dispute, non-payment of past (not future) fees, or a "reasonable dispute" over the identity of an existing domain contact.
While many registrars, such as Go Daddy, are urging customers to lock their domains, Network Solutions opted to do it for them.
"We are concerned that this policy change puts your domain name at greater risk for being "slammed" (fraudulently transferred)," Network Solutions wrote in an message to customers in September. "To further enhance the security of the domain names you have registered with Network Solutions and to protect you against unauthorized or fraudulent transfers, we will activate our free Domain Protect service for all of your domain names beginning October 18, 2004."
PairNIC, the domain arm of hosting provider Pair Networks, also is putting all its domains on locked status. Several providers, including Register.com and Gandi, do not currently provide name locking capability through their online management systems. Register.com said it will provide name locking for customers who contact the company with a specific request, while Gandi said the locking option will be enabled in its control panel in the near future.
Domain owners can check whether their domain is locked by doing a WHOIS inquiry, which is available through most registrars as well as web services such as Whois Source, GeekTools, ZoneEdit or InterNIC. A locked domain will reflect its status as REGISTRAR-LOCK. Here's an example:
Domain Name: NETCRAFT.COM Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC. Whois Server: whois.networksolutions.com Status: REGISTRAR-LOCK Updated Date: 21-oct-2004
An unlocked domain will usually say "Status: ACTIVE." Contact your domain registrar for details of the locking options and process.