Jonathan Zhang

CEO of threatintelligenceplatform.com & whoisxmlapi.com, infosec thought leader and adviser

The Domain Reputation API Test: 7 Must-Dos to Score High

Your domain’s reputation can make or break your business. A content website that’s meant to entice readers to subscribe to its RSS feed, follow on social media, or just generally consume what it serves on a daily basis and gets thousands or millions of followers is a success. An e-commerce site that manages to reach its intended monthly sales quota is also successful. And these scenarios are what all businesses with an online presence aim for. What they don’t want to do, meanwhile, is get hacked and put their company, employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders at great risk. All that depends on how secure and reputable their domain is.
That said, I compiled a list of must-dos for businesses, big or small, to keep their domain reputation intact or score high in any domain reputation API’s review process.
1. Keep your website content, related domains, and host configuration up to par
If your website touts to be a provider of great content that readers can use as reference, then you have to make sure that it does just that. Your content must provide value; be accurate, relevant, search-optimized, and mobile device-friendly; and cater to your intended audience. Be sure no one has tampered with or defaced your site as well and that all pages are accessible or aren’t being DDoSed.
Keeping a secure and reputable domain also means that all subdomains tied to it are free from digital threats. Make sure none of your domains have malicious ties nor redirect visitors to phishing and other malware-infected sites or pages. That said, when citing sites outside your domain as reference, see to it that the sites and pages are reputable and threat-free as well. Remember that your domain’s reputation will be affected by that of any site or page linked to it. If one of them is categorized as “malicious,” your site will be too.
Finally, the ubiquity of cyber attacks has made it mandatory for all companies with an online presence to employ IT infrastructure hardening. Simply put, this means shielding servers, applications, OSs, and databases against all kinds of threats. This entails using strong passwords for all user accounts, limiting access to administrative accounts, keeping applications patched, and so on. Only by protecting the systems that host your domain and the applications that run them can you ensure that your domain maintains a high reputation score.
2. Use an SSL certificate to make sure all connections are secure
A company needs to install an SSL certificate onto its web server to initiate secure sessions with browsers. Once a secure connection is established, all of the traffic between your web server and any web browser will be protected. A sure sign of this is that when accessed, your site name will no longer be preceded by HTTP, it will instead run on the HTTPS protocol. You can also see a lock icon beside its name, giving visitors the added assurance that they are in a safe space.
3. Make sure your domain doesn’t appear on any malware data feed
One of the first things cybersecurity companies do to protect their customers is to block access to dangerous websites. Ensure that your domain isn’t hosting any malicious software, redirecting visitors to bad sites, serving up malicious ads, or isn’t being used to spam users, otherwise it may just end up in malware feeds. When that happens, no matter how good your content, product, or service offerings are, no one will ever see them.
4. Constantly update your WHOIS record
The law requires all website owners to register their domains and maintain up-to-date WHOIS records that do not contain false information. This allows them to assure users of the Internet’s safety. Anyone caught providing untruths can have their domain ownership rights instantly revoked. Repeat offenders can even be banned from owning domains ever again. Note too that domain ownership rights expire. So keep track of your domain’s expiration date and be sure you never fail to renew before the deadline’s up. That way, your site will always be up and running and no one can snatch your domain name away as soon as your rights to it expire.
5. Maintain properly configured DNS MX records and mail servers
DNS MX records are responsible for the proper delivery of email to your address. They tell users which mail servers accept incoming mail for your domain and where emails sent to your domain should be routed to. Your readers’ or customers’ emails should end up in your inbox and no one else’s. Keep cyber attackers from rerouting mail that’s meant for your eyes to their own specially crafted inboxes, thus putting your company, employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders at risk of data loss or theft and other threats.
6. Safeguard your nameservers from harm
Nameservers are simply applications that use a network service to provide responses to queries made to a directory service. In other words, they translate your domain name into an IP address that identifies the system that will answer a query. With threats like typosquatting, DDoS and DNS amplification attacks, registrar hijacking, cache poisoning, and more that can affect them, you need to constantly protect your nameservers so your visitors end up on your site and not on malicious ones created and maintained by ever-wily and eagerly waiting cybercriminals.
7. Ensure that none of your IP addresses are tagged “malicious”
Cyber attackers are very technically adept and so can find ways to replicate your IP addresses so they can trick your supposed site visitors into ending up on phishing or other malware-laden sites of their own creation. That’s why cybersecurity solutions typically block user access to IP addresses that have ties to cybercrime or cyber attacks. If your IP address ends up being spoofed and thus blocked, then no one can visit it.
Certain Web authorities, apart from cybersecurity professionals and law enforcement agencies, are always on the lookout for potentially harmful sites to block access to or protect Internet users from. They use domain reputation scoring tools to make sure no one ends up paying cybercriminals for fake or even nonexistent goods or services or giving out their personally identifiable information or PII, which often includes credit card details and other confidential data, to phishers and other threat actors.
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I’m pretty sure no company wants their domain to end up on a blacklist. One way to ensure your domain scores high (translation: doesn’t get flagged for malicious activities) on any domain reputation API, you must do all seven items I’ve listed above. These practices make up what good domain scoring tools rate domains against to gauge how safe they are for users to access.
There are several domain reputation APIs or scoring tools available today but choose one that checks for all the elements I’ve listed to make sure your domain is threat-free. Only by doing a proactive check of your own domain can you be assured that your entire Web infrastructure maintains its good name. Like I said earlier, your domain’s reputation can make or break your business. Make sure your domain name spells success and not danger. Try using our own Domain Reputation API, which uses all seven aspects to keep your brand protected and safe from any online threat at all times.

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