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Domain Names - protecting the digital words that matter

Posted on 26 June 2017

Domain Names - protecting the digital words that matter

A domain name is an extension of a brand's identity and, as the world becomes more tech-reliant, online elements are an increasingly important part of the overall customer experience. Trust in a brand's domain is paramount in ensuring its reputation is upheld and confidence in its online services is maintained. A growing trend sees cyber-criminals take advantage of a customer's trust in a brand, using similar domain names to the official one to improve the chances of a digital crime being successful. But businesses are not powerless against the growing onslaught of cyber fraud. There are simple steps you can take to make sure you are protected.

Mishcon de Reya investigates large numbers of online frauds, many of which see cyber-criminals use a slightly altered form of a brand name, in the hope that a potential victim will not notice the difference - for example replacing the O character with a zero: Mishcon.com to Misch0n.com. With the introduction of an increasing number of generic Top-Level Domains such as .com, .plumbing, .sales, criminals now have more opportunities to take advantage of well-known brands before those companies have a chance to register these domain themselves.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), domain name issues are prevalent across a vast range of sectors, with the banking and finance, fashion, heavy industry and machinery, IT, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industries filing the highest number of cases in 2016.

The wide range of sectors and companies affected is only likely to increase as customers rely more and more on e-commerce and other online services in their daily lives, so recruitment companies should seek to protect themselves sooner rather than later.

Traditional approaches to enforcement may work for a company acting alone, essentially moving the problem onto others in the sector. However, this has the issue of devaluing the IP of the sector as a whole, and does not protect against frauds targeting one company on the behalf of the other. As such, a new approach is needed to cut the problem off at source and to protect the individuals who may be the ultimate targets of these scams.

Businesses can protect their trademarks and online presence in several ways. As new domains for sectors and countries are authorised by ICANN, companies should consider the small cost of registering them over the potentially high cost of reputational damage if they are misused by criminals. Monitoring for new domain names which are close to your brand provides early warning of potential issues enabling you to act quickly.

Regardless of the intent of those who register the domains, illegitimate domains detract from the value of the brand they align themselves to and increase the risk of your brand being used for criminal means. Many criminal groups are now targeting sectors as a whole, working from company to company, reusing the techniques and tools they have developed before organisations catch on. With this in mind, recruitment businesses should take action now, protecting not only themselves but the sector as a whole.

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