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South West Chamber changes website after cybersquatter demands ransom

| Thursday, May 3, 2018, 12:04 p.m.

An unidentified cybersquatter hijacked the Collier-based South West Communities Chamber of Commerce website domain name recently, replacing its contents with pornography.

The chamber's website is back up and running under a new domain name — But chamber Director Mandy Pryor said the old one may not be retrievable.

The squatters, Pryor said, are attempting to ransom it back to the chamber at an “exorbitant” price.

“We don't know who it is yet,” Pryor said, “but I'm sure this isn't the first company that they did this to, and it won't be the last either.”

Pryor said the website's old domain was purchased by the squatters after it mistakenly went to auction. The chamber, she said, was in the process of migrating the domain to a new host, which mistakenly put it up for sale.

The chamber considered bidding on its old domain, Pryor said, but establishing a new one was less expensive.

The old domain, she said, sold at auction for more than $700.

The squatters, Pryor said, are asking for a ransom in excess of that amount that the chamber does not intend to pay.

Pryor said the Chamber filed a complaint with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an international nonprofit that manages web infrastructure, to resolve the dispute.

“That's basically all we can do at this point — budget-wise as well as time-wise,” she said.

Pryor said that the old domain likely won't be recovered through the dispute. Suing for it, Pryor said, would be more costly.

Pryor said the purchase of the new domain, as well as costs for changing business cards, signage and email addresses — cost the chamber about $500.

She said the chamber purchased a domain security package through its new host to prevent future attacks.

She added that other businesses should be aware that their websites could be similarly snatched.

Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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