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Dell Get Squatted on Recovery Domain

Registering a website domain is a simple process, but it can be the renewal process that trips most up. Domains can be bought for a set period, after which they’ll need to be paid for again. Most registrars will offer an autorenewal service that will automatically take your money and renew the domain when that expires. However, trouble can arise if that registrar changes their service, you don’t update your payment details, you ignore the renewal reminder emails, or anything else.

We’ll not know which of those situations happened at Dell, but we do know what they forgot to renew a data recovery domain which then got bought buy a squatter. The domain, which is now back in the tech company’s hands, offered up information about Dell’s data products.

The site was also used by the Dell Backup and Recovery Application. This program comes with Dell’s computers and is a backup and recovery program that will automatically backup key bits of data like photos, videos and music. It’s also used when Dell customers want to do a factory reset.

The domain was controlled by SoftThinks, a Texas-based backup and imaging provider that has held the domain since 2013 and lost control of it sometime in the middle of 2017.

Two weeks after they lost the domain, it was reported that the domain was pushing out malicious software. Though no systems have been reported to be affected by the malware, it’s an embarrassing situation for Dell.

The Register reached out to Dell for a comment on the situation. “The domain reference in the DBAR application was not updated, so DBAR continued to reach out to the domain after it expired. Dell was alerted of this error and it was addressed,” the company said.

“We do not believe that the Dell Backup and Recovery calls to the URL during the period in question resulted in the transfer of information to or from the site, including the transfer of malware to any user device.”

It’s a question as to how this domain could expire and be squatted, but it’s not an uncommon situation in a large enterprise. It might be down to shadow IT, where a team circumnavigates the central IT team to complete their task thinking it will be easier and simpler, or because the payment information was registered to a company card that has expired or individual who has now left.

It seems that Dell now have now regained control over the domain, but their premium Backup and Recovery software is no more anyway. Instead, it is being transitioned into SoftThinks Backup and Recovery. It’s only available through an in-app purchase on the Basic edition.

Of course, SoftThinks were the ones who controlled the domain that got away from them in the first place, so their recovery software is likely no different to the one that Dell customers had originally. Instead, Dell are separating from offering it as their own product and pushing consumers directly to the third-party provider.


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