Beware of not owning your own accounts

You probably have several accounts related to your online presence:

  • your domain name registrar
  • your website hosting company
  • the website itself (e.g. your WordPress login)

Perhaps you have more than one of each type of account, and you may have other accounts related to your website as well.

Are all these accounts registered in your name and under your control? Do you own your own accounts? Just because you have a login for a given account, doesn’t necessarily mean you own it or have full control over it.

Some people don’t want the bother of owning and maintaining all these separate accounts, and prefer to pay someone to handle all of it for them. While you might not want to oversee the details of your accounts, here are a couple of stories about clients who didn’t have full control over their own accounts — with expensive consequences.

The unanticipated

When someone else owns accounts for you, that person may become a bottleneck for anything that needs to get done. In an extreme case, a web developer had stored my client’s website on his own server. When the developer passed away, it took my client a year to prove she was the true owner of the website.

Hijacked

My client Sarah tried to log in to her website to make updates but discovered that the login page was gone. Sarah’s previous web developer had hidden the login page and deleted her username and password. He was also using her website to send hundreds of emails in her name to promote his own nefarious business.

Even though Sarah couldn’t access her website, fortunately she owned the hosting account for her website. I was able to log in to her web hosting account, access the website database, delete all the things the previous developer had done, and restore control to Sarah.

Held for ransom

My client Raymond sold a product through his website, and had contracts with universities and government agencies. He needed to make time-sensitive updates to the website but could no longer log in.

Marie had designed and developed Raymond’s website, and maintained it in her own server account. She had also registered Raymond’s domain name in her account. She believed her contributions entitled her to be a partner in Raymond’s business, and argued that without her work, Raymond would not be doing as well as he was. She said she would restore his access to the website if he made her a partner in the business.

Raymond probably could have proven in court that the domain name and website were indeed his property, and that he’d already paid Marie for her work, so the court would require Marie to turn everything over to him. However, if he waited for the court case, he would miss the upcoming contract and would incur high legal fees as well. He was also concerned that Marie might delete the website if she found out she was being sued.

Raymond did not own any of his own accounts, but I was able to negotiate with Marie to regain access to the website so that the updates could be made, and found a price she would accept to turn over ownership of the domain name and website to Raymond. After Raymond made an additional payment to her of over $13,000, he gained control of his property. A very high cost for not owning his own accounts!

Conclusion

It is important for you to own and control your domain names, web hosting accounts, and websites.

If someone locks you out of your website, you need control over your web hosting account to regain control of the website. If someone locks you out of your web hosting account, you need control over your domain name so that you can assign it to a different web hosting account.

You should have your own secure logins and passwords for everything, and only share information with people you can trust.

And should you ever experience similar challenges, feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to assist you.

Share this post: