As generic top-level domains (gTLDs) become more widespread, brands have admitted to feeling concerned about their rollout over the next five years.

Research released from brand protection firm Netnames as part of its Internet 2020 report has shown that 92% of the companies surveyed recognise there is a certain level of risk involved with gTLDs.

Meanwhile 87% admitted that keeping their brands and trademarks protected after the introduction of gTLDs was causing them some distress, especially as 37% felt cybersquatting was the number one risk.

Surge in cybercriminals 

NetNames CEO Gary McIlraith drew attention to the fact that cybersquatters would have a wealth of new opportunities for domain-name hijacking, traffic diversion, counterfeiting and other forms of brand abuse.

“The launch of thousands of new domain endings is about to reshape the online landscape, effectively opening up another front for cybercriminals to carry out fraudulent activity against businesses and their customers,” McIlraith predicted.

What will be alarming for consumers is that only 29% of business respondents were worried customers might be more at risk of fraud. If consumers came across a bogus website, 78% said they would shun the brand.

Strategic response

Companies should be fearful of this new wave of cybercriminals as, according to McIlraith, it will seriously affect how they are perceived by consumers if they do not plan for every eventuality.

“The onus is on brands to ensure that they are protecting their customers from falling into the hands of online fraudsters,” he said.

“Before the internet evolves further, brands must develop an effective online strategy that protects both their intellectual property and online customers.”