New warning: Change your domain name now or your business could be at risk

Business owners are warned that they may face an increased risk to their business from cybercrime as part of changes to Australian internet domains.

New rules were introduced in March this year to allow anyone with a connection to Australia to register the shorter .au domain for their website, rather than the .com.au or .net.au domain existing.

However, those with existing Australian domains have until September to reserve their equivalent website with the shorter domain, before it becomes available to the general public.

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Australian Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman Bruce Billson said the short timeframe for the change could lead to an increase in cybercriminals taking advantage.

Billson said it was likely that a large number of companies could impersonate their brand or identity.

Criminals could exploit shorter .au domains when they become available next month, an ombudsman says. Credit: Dan Pele/AAP

“Domain names are the identity of a business and are essential to its success. Small businesses cannot afford to sell their identity to someone else,” he said.

“It’s like cutting a second set of keys to your front door and selling them to a rival, a stranger trying to resell them to you for a higher price or a criminal using them to scam your customers.”

The ombudsman expressed concern about the lack of awareness around the campaign to switch to the .au domain.

The new system for authorizing the shortened domain was created by the regulator .au Domain Administration.

The administration said the change would be the biggest for Australian websites in decades and would allow access to shorter and simpler website addresses.

So far, more than 3 million domains with .au have been registered.

Billson said he raised his concerns with the administration and requested an extension of the deadline, but was denied.

He said there could be an increase in “cyber squatting”, where similar domain names are taken over by competitors or cybercriminals for fraudulent activity.

“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.

“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.”

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