Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Oliver Peterson

ABC Radio North and West SA

Subject: internet domain name changes

Oliver Peterson

You’re being warned if you’re a small business owner and for that matter, if you go to a website, to safeguard your identity online or risk cybercriminals taking up domain names identical to yours. To tell you more, Bruce Billson is the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. Good afternoon.

Bruce Billson

Oli, great to be with you and 6PR listeners.

Oliver Peterson

It’s great to have you on the program, Bruce, because I think most people will be completely and utterly surprised by this. I didn’t even know there was a .au about to come into existence. So we get rid of the .com.au.

Bruce Billson

Yeah. Look, it was it’s something that’s happened overseas. And look, it’s a bit funky, a bit attractive you know, if you wanted to be a 6PR.com.au kind of person, that’s fine. But how good would 6PR.au be? So, it’s really taking out that .com, .net, .asn that so many people have and just really going direct to your business name more or less and then the .au to signify it’s in Australia.

But boy, you need to be a genius to know that change is happening. And for some time I’ve been urging the non-government regulator that oversees the allocation of domain names to be a bit more up and about and let people know this is happening. Otherwise, people without your best interest in mind might grab that domain name, maybe use it for cutting off your customers, or get involved in cybercrime or in many cases that we already see, they’ll say, ‘Hey, guess what, Oly I’ve got your domain name. Would you like to buy it off me’ for many times the sticker price of what it would cost if you registered it yourself.

Oliver Peterson

Yeah, and you can understand that, right? If we got to a situation where, let’s use 6PR again as an example, at the moment it’s 6PR.com.au, but the 6PR.au landing page is something completely different, then we could have all sorts of problems, as you said.

Bruce Billson

Well, and that’s the thing I’m trying to surface. There is a window of time that runs out around the 20th of September. For 6PR.com.au, if you wanted to apply for 6PR.au, you’re like got priority access to it because it’s like-for-like and you’ve already got some space. But what if you didn’t know that change was happening at all? And, you know, you guys keep delighting your listeners over there in the West and someone else thinks, hey, no one’s grabbed this one, I might grab 6PR and say, ‘Hey, would you like to come and buy it off me for a whole bunch of dollars?’

Or worse still, and we know this happens in the digital space, people try to ambush market people by slipping in and trying to get a little bit of their online traffic to come to a different site. Or if you are a business that has information, membership details, if you’re at a gym or something like that, and then someone sends out, a hey, would you like to update your details? And it’s not actually you. It’s someone who’s masquerading as you.

You can see the concerns that would arise. I’ve been out there saying to small and family business, look, it’s not probably the first thing on your mind, but take a few minutes or even spend a few dollars, protect your digital assets rather than leave them available for a free for all and someone might grab hold of them and they might not have your interests at heart.

Oliver Peterson

Exactly. So, 20 September, as you said, is the deadline. Again, I’m surprised I wasn’t even aware of this until I heard about it today. Is that enough time, Bruce? Could we perhaps even push that date back maybe to the end of the year so we can get this message out and more people are across it?

Bruce Billson

Well, that’s what I’ve put to the non-government regulator that’s overseeing the change, auDA, a not-for-profit non-government regulator that oversees domain names in Australia. A lot of people don’t realise it’s not a government thing. It’s handled through that channel and I’ve been urging them, given the feedback we’ve got, that most people go, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know this was happening’, that that 20 September deadline where the equivalent .com.au person or business can get the shortened abridged .au, that priority window we’re saying you should extend that by at least another year.

They’ve come back saying, ‘Oh, I don’t think that’s needed’.

Well, here’s the information we’re getting. Every business we’re talking to, most of the small business associations who really monitor these things, don’t know what’s going on in that space. And they sure as hell know their members don’t know that.

And they’re saying, look, you know, this is just not going that great. You need to either really lift your communications and get a public information campaign out there or slide back that date. They’ve said they think it’s going fine. I’ve said I don’t think so. So, I will jump on my bike and do all I can to urge people to take that urgent action to safeguard their digital assets and also, you know, make sure they’re not at risk of having their online identity picked up and used for other purposes by someone else.

Oliver Peterson

Well done for picking up the megaphone, Bruce, and have a good weekend. We’ll continue to pursue it. Thank you.

Bruce Billson

You, too. Take care. And if you want to buy 6PR.au, I’ve picked it up. I’ll do a great deal for you. I’m joking, but that’s the sort of thing we’re trying to guard against.

Oliver Peterson

That’s Bruce Billson, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

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