The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, has warned migrant-led small businesses they have just two weeks left 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 domain names of many migrant-owned and led businesses are often tied to their cultural identity so they cannot afford to have their digital identity sold to someone else,” Mr Billson said.
“One in three small businesses are run by people who have moved to Australia from overseas and these businesses make a valuable contribution to the vibrancy of the community and vitality of the national economy.
“My message to them is don’t get caught short when it comes to the shortened .au domain name.”
A new system is being introduced allowing anyone with a connection to Australia to register the .au category of domain name. Instead of ending with .com.au, .net.au, .asn.au, etc, people can have a shorter name. For example, shoes.com.au could be shoes.au
This change is being imposed by the non-government regulator, .au Domain Administration (auDA), who has decided that Australian businesses with an existing domain name will only have until 20 September to reserve or register their equivalent .au domain name before it becomes available to the general public.
“With only a fortnight to go until the 20 September deadline, my worry is that hardly any migrant-led small businesses I’ve met are aware this is taking place,” Mr Billson said.
Mr Billson said he wanted to ensure that all small businesses, especially those run by people who have moved to Australia from overseas, understand that 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.
“So many of the stories of how migrants have created and grown businesses are inspiring,” Mr Billson said. “There is no doubt our culture, local business communities, and the choice of goods and services available to consumers and other businesses, are enriched by their presence.
“Small businesspeople take on a big and often stressful responsibility. It is not just an enterprise but their life – often their home and mortgage, family and identity are all tied together.
“We need to do everything we can to make sure their key digital asset – their domain name – is protected.”
“Ask yourself, would I be upset if someone else had the .au version of my existing domain name? Would I feel the digital engagement I’ve developed with my customers would be compromised if I didn’t have that abridged version?
“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.”
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 business have echoed the concerns. The request was rejected by auDA.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has also 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 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.”