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SMEs to be held ransom for .au domains if deadline is not extended, warns COSBOA

COSBOA has today joined the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman in expressing concern over the rushed introduction of .au direct domain names. The peak body for small businesses is calling on the non-government .au Domain Administrator (auDA) to extend priority registration for owners of .com.au, .net.au, etc. equivalents for an additional 12 months.

Since March, small businesses and individuals have been able to register domain names ending directly in .au. This means a website URL would read www.smallbusinessxyz.au instead of www.smallbuzinessxyz.com.au. auDA provided 6 months for the owners of .com.au, .net.au, .org.au, etc. domain names to have priority registration of the .au equivalents, meaning that if small businesses don’t take action before 21 September, their .au name will be available for anyone to register.

COSBOA CEO Alexi Boyd said “There’s nothing inherently wrong with the existence of .au direct – the problem is that not nearly enough people know about it, making it a risk for cybercrime, as has already been highlighted by the Ombudsman and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.”

“We are concerned that if priority registration isn’t extended, cyber criminals could purchase .au domain names and create ‘shell sites’ or ‘ghost sites’ impersonating legitimate businesses, potentially using online booking forms to gather information and/or money from the business’ clients.

“Another concern is that nefarious individuals could purchase the .au direct equivalent of small businesses’ website and hold it hostage until a Ransome is paid.”

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Ms Boyd added “In this digital age where having a website is basically a requirement to running a successful small business, domain names are valuable assets and important intellectual property. They should be treated as such.”

“In the meantime, we urge everyone who owns a website to protect their brands by applying for priority registration of the .au direct equivalent of their domain name as soon as possible via auDA’s website.”

Ms Boyd concluded “We recognise the difficulty of getting the message out to tired small business owners who have been overwhelmed with new information these past few years. COSBOA has a good relationship with auDA and we will continue to work with them to spread the message about .au direct.”

Source: COSBOA

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