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Businesses urged to update Domain Names in bid to beat scammers

By Dylan J. Stone

Broken Hill businesses with a registered domain name are being urged to update their domain name registration when changes to Australia’s domain name registration processes come in next month.

Small Business Ombudsman, Bruce Bilson, is urging small to medium businesses to update their domain name registration to, “stop someone else grabbing it and using it to digitally ambush your business”.

It all revolves around a new category of domain name, will which end in .au, rather than the common .com.au, .org.au, or similar current endings.

The purpose of the change is to allow users to register shorter names, which are readily recalled by customers.

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But there is a potential downside to the move – it presents potential opportunities for cybercriminals to register domain names in the name of current businesses with the aim of impersonating businesses, and so to take advantage of confusion from customers and the general public.

At the moment, domain names ending in .com.au require the domain name owner to have a valid Australian Business Number (ABN), but the incoming .au domain only asks domain name holders to demonstrate an established connection to Australia.

This change essentially establishes a lower threshold which could improper entities to impersonate businesses, and cause disruption to legitimate Australian businesses.

Thankfully, ensure domain name holders can reserve their .au equivalent domain name, but this provision will expire on 20 September.

There is a cost for reserving the .au equivalent domain name, depending on the length of time your business intends to hold the domain name for.

Mr Billson, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, believes it is well worth doing.

“It will only take a few minutes and a few dollars to register [the .au equivalent domain name] or potentially face someone else grabbing it and using it to digitally ambush your business, to demand big dollars later to surrender it to you, or misuse it to masquerade as you or to help them engage in cybercrime.”

The Australian Cyber Security Centre, recommends, “businesses should consider registering a .au domain name that includes their current top-level domain. For example, a business that currently owns yourbusiness.com.au should register yourbusiness.au and yourbusinesscom.au. This will prevent cybercriminals from registering these domain names in the future and using them to conduct fraudulent cyber activities”’

The Barrier Truth has contacted a number of Broken Hill small business owners who have said they were either unaware of the uncoming changes, or had not yet reserved their .au equivalent domain name.

There is growing concern businesses which aren’t aware of these changes will put themselves at an extreme risk of cybercrime, and calls have been growing to extend the reservation period for a further 12 months to provide businesses with the opportunity to confirm their reservations of the new domain name and to finance the applicable fees.

So far, these calls have been rejected by the regulator.

Mr Billson says, “all I can do is try and make sure small and family business are not caught short when it comes to the shortened .au domain name”

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