We came to work on August 15th, expecting to spend a busy office day. We had lots to do - proposals to get out the door, site evaluations to schedule, blog posts to write, and the usual crush of emails that always awaited us once we got off the roof. But this day was to be different, because on this day we discovered that our domain for over ten years, runonsun.com, had been hijacked!
What exactly did that mean? Well for one, it meant that we could no longer send or receive email from that domain - so prospective clients who were trying to communicate with us, got bounced emails for their troubles. For another thing, it meant that our website, including our blog, vanished from view, without a trace, as if it had never been there at all! And the final blow - our client relationship management system, which we built ourselves from the ground up and which held all of our information about prospective, present, and prior clients - was inaccessible! Talk about a four-alarm fire to kick off your morning!
So how could this happen?
That's a darn good question. It appears that someone, somewhere, had access to our login credentials at Network Solutions (our former domain registrar), as well as an old, abandoned Yahoo email account that was used when the NS account was established. With that combination of information, they were able to transfer control over the domain to a registrar in China - the notorious bizcn.com - where the domain was parked, pointing to nothing.
Presumably the point of this exercise was to demand a ransom, but if that was the intent, the hijackers were two clever by half. Once the domain no longer pointed to our hosting servers, any ransom demand bounced just as hard as those erstwhile client emails. So there's that.
We contacted both NS and bizcn and found both of them to be remarkably blase about what was to us nothing short of a disaster. Hits to the website went to zero (and so did requests for site evaluations), the phone stopped ringing, and keeping up with email was no longer an issue. Finally we convinced NS that the swap was fraudulent, and they conveyed that to bizcn, who then insisted that they needed a court order or a formal domain dispute proceeding before they would turn the domain back to its rightful owner. (We still have no idea who was behind the hijacking - bizcn knows, but they aren't talking.)
With the realization that this could be a long process, with no guarantee that bizcn would ever turn over our domain (they have made a name for themselve by, among other things, hosting illegal online pharmacies that have helped fuel the opiod crisis), it became clear that we needed a plan B. Enter, stage right, runonsun.solar!
So who knew that there was even a .solar domain? Well the clever people who work for me did, and so we registered runonsun.solar. That was the easy part. Next came modifying the website and blog so that they would work with the new domain—we think we are good, but if you see a glitch, please let us know. Then trying to convince Google that our content, even on a new domain, is worthy of ranking highly in search results. (We cannot simply tell Google to treat us as if we are runonsun.com since without control of the domain, we cannot provide the redirection codes that Google requires - rightfully - to do that. Grumble.) And then there was getting all of our email addresses to work. And getting the CRM to work. And trying to track down all those places that point people to us, to change those links.
Yeah, exactly, a nightmare.
So, we are dragging ourselves back from the abyss. Google Analytics reports that we had about 15% of normal site traffic in the last couple of days - we even received a site evaluation request! One, woot!! - but all of that is better than zilch, which is where we were a couple of weeks ago. With some luck, this Newsletter will actually make it to most of your inboxes, though I fear it will become spam filter fodder for many. Sigh.
But rumors of our demise are premature. The last two weeks turned a promising month into a tumultous disaster, and special thanks to our clients for their understanding as we had to prioritize our ability to function going forward, even if it took our installment schedule and threw it into a cocked hat.
To the jerk(s) who are behind this hijacking, know this: You Failed. (I'm guessing this failure is not a first for you.) Run on Sun, thanks to my valiant colleagues and exceptional clients is alive and well and we will be better than ever.
Everyone else, tell your friends. Run on Sun is back! Watch this space!