[ISN] Blueprint Pays Bounty

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Tue Jan 02 2007 - 00:36:33 PST


By Sean Wolfe
December 29, 2006

Blueprint Ventures is back online. A week after their site was seized by 
a porn-spammer, the VC concluded it was easier to pay up rather than 
take the issue to court. The case is instructive for two reasonsfirst, 
getting one's domain back after hackers seize it is more difficult, and 
takes longer than one might think. Second, that keeping ones domain 
registered, and staying on top of when that registration comes due, is a 
vital component of any Internet-era brand defense.

In mid-December, the South San Francisco-based venture capital group got 
a rude awakening.  According to managing director Bart Schachter, a 
UK-based hacker found that Blueprints hosting company had been asleep at 
the switch, and had not re-upped the firms domain registration in a 
timely fashion. Evidently, he said, there are now software programs that 
spider the Web for domains that are about to come up for grabs, and 
pounce on their unwary prey.

So, on Friday, December 8, everyone at Blueprint went home for the 
weekend (See our prior story Blueprint Ventures Hacked [1]), and by the 
following morning, the Blueprint Ventures site had been changed, email 
had been cut, and visitors to the firms homepage were being redirected 
to a number of pornography sites.

For the next two weeks, Mr. Schachter and others at the firm were 
embarked on a series of negotiations, one with lawyers, and another, 
with the culprit.

What we found was there are a bunch of legal means by which we can get 
the domain back. But they cost money.  So relative to paying a lawyer, 
paying a squatter is cheaper. We had someone who is a mutual friend who 
knows the person who helped us settle the issue, he said.

The identity of the culprit, who goes by the name Andy Placid, as well 
as other aliases remains unknown. And the crime, if there was one, is 
nebulous.  Arguably, all he did was snap up an unregistered domain.

As of a week ago, we had 30,000 Google references to our site, so theres 
no doubt we had the trademark, Mr. Schachter said. Soyou could say he 
got it legally through Register.com, but illegally when it comes to 
trademark law.

But the price to defend that trademark was $2-3,000 just to file the 
claim, but getting a lawyer to do it - that'd be more like $15-$20,000. 
So how much did he pay the squatter? Low thousands was all he would say.

Lessons learned? A good defense is the best offense.  The company has 
registered its former domain for the next seven years.

What this does is suggest that any domain owner move from a reactive to 
a proactive posture.  When you lease comes due, you write the check. 
When your insurance is due, you renew it. Same thingyou have to get 
ahead of it to make sure all is well.

All in all, the firm kept an open mind, and the sense of humor the firm 
is known for (an example can be found in their latest holiday card [2]). 
For one, there are a number of interesting start-ups in the fraud 
protection businessed for domain addresses - though he wouldnt mention 

[1] http://www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=20229
[2] http://www.blueprintventures.com/holiday06.html

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