Business owners across Australia are being told to update their domain names or risk being targeted by cybercriminals.
- New domain names that end with .au are now available.
- Business owners who already own a .com.au domain are being urged to buy their .au equivalent.
- Experts are worried that cyber criminals will be able to buy .au domains and set up mirrored sites.
New rules are being introduced to allow Australian businesses, organisations 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 could become www.abc.au, or www.books.com.au could be shortened to www.books.au.
Businesses with existing websites need to register their equivalent shorter domain names by Tuesday, September 20.
After that date, the website ending in .au becomes available to the general public.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, said businesses needed to take action now to avoid their internet identities potentially being sold to someone else.
“The consequences for a small or family business could be massive if impersonators, web name squatters or cyber criminals take up domain names just like theirs,” Mr Billson said.
“If you don’t get control of the .au version of your domain name, a cybercriminal masquerading as you could try to reach your customers.”
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) also warned the new domain option provided another opportunity for cybercriminals to commit fraudulent activity like business email compromise, a specific type of phishing attack to trick people.
Businesses 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 lose the opportunity of owning the .au version of your website and then having someone else creating a website similar to yours, and then customers getting confused,” Mr Johnstone said.
“Once the new versions become available, then anyone can buy the .au version of somebody else’s website and potentially sell it back to them.
“If you already own the .com.au and you have a valid ABN or ACN number, then your domain provider can do it all for you.”
Change not advertised well, consumers say
The owner of film and photography business Modfilms, Jennifer Pett, said she recently bought the shortened .au domain name as a security measure.
“We don’t want someone else coming in and directing customers to a different website,” she said.
“We found out about this from our domain name provider. We haven’t seen any advertising around this.”
Ms Pett said she liked the idea of shorter website names.
“We will get a redirect of the .au domain to go back to our main website,” she said.
“We bought it in case they drop the .com.au from websites.
“We are a local business that markets to people in Australia, so we thought it worth it to get the .au.”
Mr Johnstone said it was too early to tell what difference the .au domains would make to businesses in Australia.
“We are 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.
“Then, in a year’s time, we will know how many people have been contacted and have been ripped off.
“If after a year it all fizzles out, then you can choose whether you need it or not.”
The ACSC said priority allocation would be given to those registering their shorter matching domain names before the September 20 deadline.