As a person who does a lot of digging on domain names, I often run into several factors that prevent me from knowing who owns a domain name, so I thought I would provide some tips on how to hide domain ownership.
So why would you want to hide the fact that you or your company owns a domain? Why you shouldn’t hide?
Why you shouldn’t hide that you own a domain:
A.) You want to sell it! Whois data is important to keep up to date with a proper and valid email address and phone number. This is often an avenue for easy contact.
B.) You are legit! It seems shady to me that some people / companies “hide” that they own a domain name for an extended period of time. This can be whois privacy protection mainly. If there is no reason to hide, why do it?
Why you may want to hide that you or your company owns a specific domain name:
A.) You are a start-up and wish not to reveal your “name” yet
B.) New product
C.) New service
D.) Upcoming market
F.) Countless other reasons I’m sure
So how do I do my best to hide who actually owns a domain name?
There are several things that are really important and it starts as soon as you gain control of a domain name.
1.) Whois information is public. If you purchase a domain name or register one, be sure to put on whois privacy protection right away at registration or time of transferring in a domain to your registrar of choice. This doesn’t mean you have to “buy” privacy protection, you can simply use “general” data in whois for the specific domain name you wish to hide. If I were being cheap and didn’t want to use a whois privacy protection service and pay about $8 a year, I would use the following whois data for an example:
P.O. Box Number
Phone number to an answering service
Generic gmail, yahoo etc. email address that is linked to NOTHING, so likely a new one like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do not repeat the whois data on any other domain, because that can start a trend/pattern/link.
Many large companies use domain managing services like MarkMonitor and when the company likes to remain anonymous at least for a little bit, they use a general name in whois like DnSination Inc. You could also use your legal service etc.
2.) Hosting. Every domain name needs a domain name server (DNS). These are provided by a hosting companies or you can set up your own on a dedicated server. You can set up a dedicated server and use your domain name for the DNS. Since your domain name whois is “protected” there is no link between hosting and your domain name.
If you want to use a hosting provider in general, pick a big one so you can blend in! Use Amazon hosting, GoDaddy hosting or a DNS that is heavily used. This allows you to blend in. I rarely search massive movements on DNS like aws-01.org or domaincontrol.com
2.1) IP Address. If you have your own servers (many large companies do), don’t put the domain on your own server, because IP Addresses can be tracked and see who owns them.
3.) Copyright. Often times companies use the bottom of the page (footer) to display copyright data. This is also a place that can connect a domain name to a company because it’s often stated who owns the copyright or an address, phone number etc. This data can easily create a “link”.
4.) Names (personal). Once a website is launched and you still feel the need to remain anonymous, things get a lot harder! Any trade names can easily link a site/domain name to its owner. Phone numbers, email addresses and employees. With so many social networking sites, user names even are used and again create a “link”.
5.) Code. View Source is something I use on landing pages, even blank ones.. because they can hold clues as to who owns a domain. Most services offer a standard landing page, so that is good to use “for now”. If you set up a small lander to help you gain footing in SE’s be sure the code doesn’t reveal anything or link anything to you.
If you wish to remain anonymous that you own a domain name, it starts early! Whois records are created based on “change”, so you need to have your plan in place as soon as you take ownership of the domain name. Nearly anything used in whois is a “link” to me, so do not use something that can link back to anything. Email addresses are a big and easy link to follow.
Hosting / DNS. This is often an easy “link” for me to track domain names. For an example, Microsoft almost always uses the same DNS, ns1.msft.net . I can see domain names that start using that DNS, ones going out etc.
- Whois (generic as you can)
- DNS (general/large provider)
- Website (until you are ready, be aware of any “links” to could reveal you)
Normally, once you are ready to launch your site, you are more than willing to let the world know that you own the domain name but often times you may want to remain anonymous for awhile, because there are people like me who are watching what you are doing even though you may not know it. The above should help you hide who you are, at least for a little while.