Web versions

Cybercrime warning for businesses after Australian web domains change

Businesses are being warned to take urgent action ahead of a major change to Australian websites in the coming weeks.

Owners of websites with .com.au, .net.au or similar domain names only have until next month to secure their equivalent address under the new .au domain – prompting warnings from the Ombudsman small businesses about the risk of cybersquatters or scammers taking their names.

The non-governmental regulator, the .au Domain Administration (auDA), introduced the new system on March 24 allowing anyone with a connection to Australia, such as a business, association or individual, to s register using the new shorter category domain name.

For example, shoes.com.au could be shoes.au.

auDA has decided that Australian businesses with an existing domain name will only have until September 20 to reserve or register their equivalent .au domain name before it becomes available to the general public.

Australia’s Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, said in a statement on Friday that he was very concerned about plans to allow the open sale of business names on the internet under the shortened version.

Mr Billson said that with all the challenges facing businesses, “the last thing anyone needs is someone ripping off their domain name”.

“I implore all small business owners to take a few minutes to figure out if they want the shortened .au domain or if they’ll be upset that someone else has it,” he said.

“If you want it, small business owners, I urge you to take a few minutes and a few dollars to register it or potentially face someone else grabbing it and using it to digitally ambush your company, only to demand big bucks later to give it back to you, or misuse it to impersonate you or help them engage in cybercrime.”

He added that we were “not surprised that so few people know this because the public awareness campaign had less impact, but I want to make sure that small businesses avoid an ugly surprise when they discover that someone else is using or abusing the shortened version of their key digital asset being their domain name”.

Mr Billson wrote to auDA expressing his concerns and urging it to extend the September 20 deadline, but the regulator rejected his request. “So all I can do is try to make sure that small businesses and family businesses aren’t taken aback when it comes to the .au shorthand domain name,” he said. declared.

“The consequences of not registering your existing business name by this deadline could be catastrophic for a business if a rival or someone else takes their name online. Domain names are a business’s identity and are critical to its success.Small businesses cannot afford to sell their identity to someone else.

He compared it to “cut a second set of keys from your front door and resell them to a rival, a stranger who tries to resell them to you for a higher price, or a criminal who uses them to scam your customers”.

“With five weeks to go before this artificially imposed deadline, I became very concerned that the rollout of this change was not properly explained and promoted,” he said.

“My commitment to small businesses and a wide range of organizations representing small businesses and family businesses is that they are generally unaware of this change or understand the potential consequences.”

Earlier this week, the Australian Cyber ​​Security Center issued an alert warning that the new category of domain names could allow cybercriminals to facilitate fraudulent activities such as the compromise of work emails, which can lead to fraud on bills.

“Opportunistic cybercriminals could register your .au domain name in an attempt to impersonate your business,” the ACSC warned.

Mr. Billson again asked auDA to extend the exclusivity period by 12 months.

“The deadline needs to be significantly extended,” he said.

“We are not unhappy with the introduction of the .au domain, but these crucial internet addresses should first be available to the right people and they should be properly notified of the change and given a reasonable time to act.”

In a statement, an auda spokeswoman said the introduction of the .au domain and the priority process “have been informed by extensive consultation with the community”.

“AuDA is delighted with the strong community response to .au direct, which is already unlocking untapped potential in Australia’s digital economy with over 200,000 registrations, offering a greater choice of shorter and simpler Australian domain names. “, she said.

frank.chung@news.com.au

Originally published as Cybercrime warning for businesses after Australian web domains change