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Updated The hijack of its domain name on Friday (14 January) has thrown the operations of a New York ISP into turmoil. Panix staff worked around the clock over the weekend to recover services after the rug was pulled out from under its business.

"Panix's main domain name, panix.com, has been hijacked by parties unknown," the ISP said in a statement on a temporary site Panix.net. "The ownership of panix.com was moved to a company in Australia, the actual DNS records were moved to a company in the United Kingdom, and Panix.com's mail has been redirected to yet another company in Canada."

"For most customers, accesses to Panix using the panix.com domain will not work or will end up at a false site... as a temporary workaround, you can use the panix.net domain in place of panix.com." Panix warned customers that hijackers could have captured passwords inadvertently submitted to the bogus site.

By Sunday, Panix had recovered its Panix.com domain from Australian domain hosting / registration firm Melbourne IT, where the purloined domain was parked, back to its natural home at Dotster. Root servers have already been updated but the distributed nature of the net's Domain Name System means that it will take up to 24 hours before normality is restored fully.

Domain transfer rules that came into effect last November mean that inter-registry transfer requests are automatically approved after five days unless countermanded by the owner of a domain. Contrary to our earlier report speculating that Panix may have fallen foul of these rules, the company said its domain was taken without any warning. Panix, established in 1989 and New York's oldest commercial ISPs, said neither it nor its registrar received any notification of the proposed changes.

Ed Ravin, systems administrator at Panix, added: "Our registrar, Dotster, told us that according to their system, the domain had not been transferred, even though the global registry was pointing at Melbourne IT. Something went wrong with the Internet registry system at the highest levels."

Domain hijacks were a problem even before ICANN's revised rules came into effect. Last September, German police arrested a teenager who admitted hijacking the domain of eBay Germany as part of a "prank". Visitors to eBay Germany were redirected to a site hosted by internet provider Intergenia AG. Netcraft advises users to 'lock up' domain to safeguard against the possibility of "errant transfers". Even this safeguard is not foolproof, according to Panix, which said this precaution had failed to stop its domain been hijacked. ®

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