The Cost of Ignoring Subdomain Takeover: A Wake-Up Call for Risk Management Officers


In the rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity, subdomain takeover has emerged as a significant threat. A notable example is the 2016 Uber breach, where an unclaimed subdomain led to the exposure of personal data of 57 million drivers and riders. While it may seem like a technical issue best left to IT departments, the potential consequences of subdomain takeover extend far beyond technical disruptions. For Risk Management Officers, understanding this threat and the associated costs of ignoring it is crucial.

Understanding Subdomain Takeover

Subdomain takeover occurs when a subdomain points to a service (like a web host or a cloud service) that has been removed or deleted. This allows an attacker to set up a page on the service that the subdomain points to, effectively taking control of the subdomain. The implications of this can be severe, leading to data breaches, phishing attacks, and damage to the organization’s reputation. For a more detailed explanation of subdomain takeover, you can refer to our previous article, [The Role of AI in Cybersecurity](Insert Link Here).

The Financial Cost

The financial cost of a subdomain takeover can be substantial. These costs can include:

  1. Incident Response: This includes the cost of identifying the breach, containing it, and restoring systems to their normal function. For instance, in the case of the Uber breach, the company had to pay $148 million in settlement costs.
  2. Regulatory Fines: If the breach results in the loss of sensitive data, organizations could face hefty fines from regulatory bodies. For example, under the GDPR, fines can reach up to 4% of the company’s global annual turnover. In 2018, British Airways faced a record $230 million GDPR fine following a data breach.
  3. Legal Costs: If a breach results in the loss of customer data, organizations could face legal action from affected customers. Equifax, for instance, ended up paying $700 million in settlement following their 2017 data breach.
  4. Notification Costs: Many jurisdictions require companies to notify customers in the event of a data breach. The cost of these notifications can add up, particularly for large organizations.

The Operational Cost

Beyond the direct financial costs, a subdomain takeover can also have significant operational implications. These can include:

  1. Disruption to Services: A subdomain takeover can result in significant downtime, disrupting the organization’s services and potentially leading to lost revenue. For example, in 2013, a Syrian group took over the New York Times’ domain, causing the site to be down for several hours.
  2. Resource Allocation: Responding to a subdomain takeover requires significant IT resources, which can divert resources away from other important projects.

The Reputational Cost

Perhaps the most significant cost of a subdomain takeover is the potential damage to the organization’s reputation. Trust is a crucial asset in the digital age, and a subdomain takeover can undermine this trust. The loss of customer trust can result in lost business, both immediately following the breach and in the long term. For instance, after the 2011 PlayStation Network breach, Sony reported a loss of 2.1 million customers.

The Solution – Proactive Monitoring

The costs associated with subdomain takeover highlight the importance of proactive monitoring. Tools like Subdomain Takeover Monitor can help organizations identify potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, significantly reducing the risk of a subdomain takeover.


For Risk Management Officers, understanding the potential costs of subdomain takeover is crucial. By taking proactive steps to monitor and secure subdomains, organizations can protect themselves from this growing threat and avoid the significant costs associated with a breach.

Stay one step ahead of potential threats with Subdomain Takeover Monitor, a crucial tool for managing business risk in the digital age.