Indigenous small businesses have been urged by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to act immediately to protect their brand and identity online or risk having impersonators or cybercriminals register domain names that are identical to theirs.
The non-government.au Domain Administrator (auDA) granted owners of the.com.au,.net.au, etc., equivalents priority registration for an additional 12 months after COSBOA requested it.
Thanks to a new system, anyone with a connection to Australia can now register domain names in the.au category. People can have a shorter name that doesn’t end in.com.au,.net.au,.asn.au, etc. Shoes.com.au, for instance, may also be shoes.au
However, suppose Indigenous businesses do not proactively sign up for the new system. In that case, the change being imposed by the non-government regulator.au Domain Administration (auDA) could have potentially momentous consequences that could see them lose their customer base or be at the mercy of cybercriminals posing as them.
The auDA has decided that Australian businesses with an existing domain name will only have until 20 September to register their equivalent .au name before it becomes available to the general public.
.au web domains
After September 20th, everyone will be able to register domain names on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the .au domain name became available for registration for the first time in March of this year, more than 170,000 registrations have been made, according to auDA, which oversees this naming system.
The Priority Allocation period covers the situation when there are numerous registrants for the same domain name and guarantees that businesses can request a straight match from their prior namespace (ex: if a registrant of domain.com.au and a registrant of domain.net.au are both applying for domain.au).
Anyone with a confirmed connection to Australia, such as organisations registered in the nation, citizens, and permanent residents, as well as organisations with a registered Australian trademark, is eligible to use the.au web domain.
This development puts Australia on par with its worldwide peers, including the United Kingdom (.uk), New Zealand (.nz), and Germany, and is thought to be the most important modification to the web domain area in Australia since the 1980s (.de)
“Domain names are very much the identity of a business and critical to their success, and Indigenous small businesses cannot afford to have their identity sold to someone else,” Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson said.
“With only a handful of weeks to go until this deadline, my worry is that hardly any small businesses I’ve met are aware this is taking place and many of their industry associations are aghast at how little is known about this,” Mr Billson said.
“I’m urging Indigenous small businesses to safeguard their brand and identity on the internet or risk seeing impersonators, web-name ‘campers’ or cyber criminals take up domain names just like theirs.
“The consequences of not registering your existing business name by this deadline could be catastrophic for a business if a rival or someone else took their online name.
“It’s worth spending a few minutes and a few dollars to protect your digital assets, to reduce the risk of squatting on your domain name or someone demanding much more money down the track to sell your name back to you.”
Australia’s Cyber Security Centre issues alert
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has issued an alert and warns on its website that ‘opportunistic cybercriminals could register your .au domain name in an attempt to impersonate your business.
Mr Billson wrote to auDA expressing concern about the rollout and the lack of awareness about the change and urged it to extend the 20 September deadline for 12 months. Other organisations representing small businesses have echoed the concerns. AuDA rejected the request.
“Now my mission is to raise awareness of this change to try and make sure small and family businesses across the country are not caught short when it comes to the shortened .au domain name,” Mr Billson said.
“With all the challenges small business owners and leaders are facing now, the last thing anyone needs is someone ripping off their domain name.”