WHOIS supposed to deal with this scary confirmation email? ICANN’t!

Sincerest apologies for the puns.

Periodically, you might get a scary-looking email with a subject like “Immediate action required! Verify your WHOIS data!’ The ‘immediate action’ implies a process that might take a bit of time, but in reality, these are usually emails you can archive after reading—as long as the information in those emails looks up-to-date. Some hosts might ask you to take an additional step to confirm your WHOIS data.

WHOIS data is publicly available information about who owns a particular domain—unless you have a privacy service enabled. That privacy service is required to maintain records of your actual contact information.

ICANN (or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) oversees your domain name registration, and requires up-to-date contact information—these emails are a way that registrars facilitate that check-in. Confirming that they have the right info on file helps protect your domain name.

The most important thing in the email is your contact information. Is it up to date? Do you have access to the email and phone number you’ve provided, in case you need to recover access to your domain name? If some piece of information is inaccurate or outdated, follow the email’s instructions to correct it. If it looks fine, unless otherwise noted, the ‘immediate action’ is usually just reading the email from your registrar and archiving it. However, read the email carefully—ICANN requires that providers disable domains if information is not verified.

If you want to check that your personal information (physical address, phone number, etc.) is indeed private, double-check with a WHOIS lookup.

You’ll see more than just contact information in the email. If you see a registrar or hosting company you don’t recognize, you could search for it online with your known provider. For example, domains purchased on WordPress.com could display a registrant of Tucows, Automattic, or a couple others. Siteground might show up as SG Hosting Inc.

But the most important thing is the contact information. Confirm it to protect your domain name. In general, any email about your domain name is worth taking immediate action on, while taking care to make sure the email isn’t a phishing attempt.

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