Business owners across Australia are urged to update their domain names or risk being targeted by cybercriminals.
- New domain names ending in .au are now available.
- Business owners who already have a .com.au domain are encouraged to purchase their .au equivalent.
- Experts fear that cybercriminals could buy .au domains and create mirror sites.
New rules are being introduced to allow Australian businesses, organizations and individuals to shorten their web address to a simpler .au domain name instead of .com.au, .net.au, .or .org.au.
For example, www.abc.net.au may become www.abc.au, or www.books.com.au may be abbreviated to www.books.au.
Businesses with existing websites must register their equivalent shorter domain names by Tuesday, September 20.
After this date, the website ending in .au becomes available to the general public.
Australian Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman Bruce Billson said businesses needed to take action now to prevent their internet identities from potentially being sold to someone else.
“The consequences for a small or family business could be enormous if copycats, web name squatters or cybercriminals take over domain names like their own,” Billson said.
“If you don’t control the .au version of your domain name, a cybercriminal impersonating you could try to reach your customers.”
The Australian Cyber Security Center (ACSC) also warned that the new domain option presents cybercriminals with a new opportunity to commit fraudulent activities such as compromising work emails, a specific type of phishing attack for deceive people.
Companies urged to act now
Richard Johnstone has been designing, building and hosting websites for Cairns businesses for 17 years.
He said too many businesses were still in the dark about the impending rule changes.
“You don’t want to waste the opportunity to own the .au version of your website and have someone else build a website similar to yours, and customers get confused,” Mr. Johnstone.
“Once the new versions are available, anyone can buy the .au version from someone else’s website and possibly resell it to them.
“If you already own .com.au and have a valid ABN or CAN number, your domain provider can do everything for you.”
Change not well advertised, say consumers
Modfilms film and photography company owner Jennifer Pett said she recently purchased the shortened .au domain name as a security measure.
“We don’t want someone else coming in and directing customers to another website,” she said.
“We found out about this through our domain name provider. We haven’t seen any advertising about it.”
Ms Pett said she liked the idea of shorter website names.
“We will get a redirect from the .au domain back to our main website,” she said.
“We bought it in case they remove the .com.au from the websites.
“We’re a local business that markets to Australians, so we thought it was worth getting .au.”
Mr Johnstone said it was too early to tell what difference .au domains would make for businesses in Australia.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens,” he said.
“The best thing for people to do is buy the .au website and sit on it for a year.
“So in a year we will know how many people have been contacted and defrauded.
“If after a year everything falls apart, you can choose whether you need it or not.”
The ACSC said priority allocation would be given to those who register their corresponding shorter domain names by the September 20 deadline.