Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Kim Napier

ABC Radio Northern Tasmania

Subject: internet domain name changes

Kim Napier

ABC Northern Tasmania with Kim Napier. Well, do you own or run a website for a small business? If you do, listen up because there are some changes on the way. Business owners are being warned they could face an increased risk of cybercrime as a result of changes to Australian internet domain rules.

New rules were introduced in March to allow anyone with a connection to Australia to register the shorter .au domain for their website in addition to the existing .com.au or .net.au. With me to talk about it, I’m joined by Bruce Billson. He’s the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. Bruce, great to have you on the program.

Bruce Billson

It’s fab to be with you and the listeners on the north coast of the southern island, a great part of the world.

Kim Napier

Certainly is now. Well, you’re in a beautiful part of the world at the moment. Perisher too, are you skiing?

Bruce Billson

Look, I was but there’s a bit of a blizzard here, so I’m tucked in the corner letting little bits of snow fill up my diminishing hair, trying to sound like I’m calm. But the weather is a bit grim here. Plenty of snow around, but not a lot of skiing to be had. But, what a good time to spend a few minutes thinking about your domain name.

Kim Napier

Absolutely. Can you explain to us exactly what changes are coming for Australian websites and when?

Bruce Billson

It’s an exciting opportunity for some, but certainly these changes mean others will need to act quickly to protect their position. So we’ve got .com, .net, .asn – that can be removed now and shortened and abridged domain name that’s just got the business name .au is available now.

The worry is at the 20th of September, businesses that already have a domain name and they want that .au shortened version, their priority access to it disappears and there’s a risk that it could be a bit of a free for all for other people’s domain names.

Kim Napier

So you’re suggesting that people might impersonate a local business?

Bruce Billson

Well, not suggest. It already happens now. People try that on as one of the various digital cyber scams. They try and emulate another businesses’ website, direct traffic away from the intended website onto theirs and then engage in ambush marketing or worse still, cybercriminal behaviour. So that happens now, but with this change, that door get’s opened a little bit wider.

The Cyber Security Centre is warning people about this heightened risk of having someone able to emulate an existing website by accessing the shortened domain name, which ditches the .com and the .net and the .asn and just go straight to .au.

Kim Napier

Why is this change even happening, Bruce?

Bruce Billson

Well, there’s a non-government agency that regulates this, auDA. They are the domain name administrators for our country. They rightly, I think, recognise that for some people it’s kind of spunky just having that abridged version. You know, Kim.au might be better than Kim.com.au. They see that as attractive to some businesses and they’re making that available.

So, for some, you know, it is an opportunity they wouldn’t want to miss. For others, my strong urging is to spend a few minutes to protect your interests. If you’ve got a current domain name with .com.au or .net.au, grab the .au one before someone else does and rips your digital profile and identity away from underneath you.

Kim Napier

Are businesses is being told this or is it up to them to go out and find information about it? You know, how do they know other than through osmosis?

Bruce Billson

Well, this is why we’ve got up and about. I was urging the non-government regulator to extend that priority period. You know, we’ve got a like to like change in that businesses can have that window extended, but they’ve declined to take up my suggestion. So, I thought the best thing I can do is get on my bike or get on my skis and try and rustle up some public awareness that this is a really important time to consider whether you, as a small and family business, want that abridged domain name.

If you do, spend a few dollars and a few minutes, secure it, lock it in, because, you know, after 20 September, your priority access like-to-like domain names disappears and a few weeks after that, they’re open to the public.

Kim Napier

It’s a bit rude though don’t you think that these new rules come into effect and businesses have to pay for them?

Bruce Billson

Well, I’m trying to keep it classy in that the non-government agency has done a few things. I was in your great state only a few weeks ago and I make a point of looking around and listening to radio and looking at other advertising and other media to see whether the campaign that they’re undertaking is actually landing with people and they know that they have to do something.

I wasn’t convinced that campaign was effective, so I thought, well what’s the constructive thing I can do? And that’s to give a shout out to all small and family business. It’s an important time to spend a few minutes and a few dollars getting that abridged domain name, securing your digital interest in assets for your benefit, not for someone else who may well not have your best interests at heart.

Kim Napier

And certainly there’s a lot of small and family run businesses in Tasmania. Where do people need to go if they want to register their .au website name.

Bruce Billson

They can usually go through their internet provider. There’s, you know, providers like GoDaddy and others that reserve them and you can go directly to the auDA website, just look for Australian domain names and there’s a few channels. Wholesale they’re about eight bucks to grab. Through a service provider that offers you other bells and whistles it might be 15, 20 dollars.

My goodness, what an investment that’s very necessary and very worthy. Far better than having to deal with someone who’s grabbed it, not you, and is ripping you off and trying to pinch your customers and maybe even engage in cybercrime as well.

Kim Napier

Thank you so much for sharing that message with us.

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