Online businesses need to be wary of cybersquatters and fraudsters as the first wave of new domain endings are made available to the general public for purchasing. Over the next four weeks, over 30 new gTLDs will go on sale through registrars and there will be a spike in the volume of online threats that brands are facing. As cyber-criminals take advantage of the trademark sunrise period coming to an end, top-threats include:
With up to 30 new gTLDs being released in the coming months, there will be a vast increase in the number of Web addresses that can be registered by ‘cybersquatters’ and infringe on well-known trademarks. Cybersquatter’s can then sell web addresses back to the trademark owners at an inflated price.
The availability of domain endings, such as .clothing and .ventures, give cyber-criminals an opportunity to register reputable domains that trick consumers into thinking illegitimate Web sites are affiliated with a well-known brand. Fraudulent websites can then be used to distribute counterfeit goods and dilute the value of a brand online.
With new Web addresses effectively resetting the Internet, there is a chance that brand owners will experience the return of phishing as new domains are launched. Fraudulent Web sites that look real can be infected by malware designed to steal personal information, such as passwords or credit card details, from unsuspecting customers. In addition, the availability of the first internationalised domain name (IDN), .shabaka which means .web in Arabic, will open up the Internet and require businesses to monitor for fraudulent Web sites and domain name infringements across new international territories.
The introduction of gTLDs offers brands a golden opportunity to exploit the online channels and strengthen their Web presence. However, the availability of new web addresses that are open for anyone to register will change the online risk landscape and existing brand protection strategies. Online businesses need to develop a cost-effective trademark policing programme that balances registering trademarks in the Clearinghouse, identifying relevant domains and monitoring for any infringements.
Determining the opportunities and threats that each gTLD represents to your business will provide a clearer picture of what domains to register and which trademarks need to be submitted to the Clearinghouse. My advice is to focus on the gTLDs that are applicable to your business or sector and focus on developing an effective domain name policy that allows your organisation to register and operate the most relevant domains that will deliver benefits back to the business through increased online revenues or greater customer engagement.