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Online Security - Australians Need To Be Domain Aware

July 9, 2018

A couple of recent sophisticated scams have highlighted the need for Australians to look closely at domain names of the sites they visit; particularly if following a link from an email.

Last week, the ABC reported on a warning from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission of a scam that is seeing a number of businesses ripped off thousands of dollars each. 

The way it works is the scammer hacks into a vendor or supplier account and retrieves information such as customer lists, details and invoices. Customers are then sent invoices in the style they are accustomed to and then make payment to an account controlled by the scammer. To help make the ruse seem legitimate, the scammers may also link to a web site in the email that looks the same as the vendor/suppliers' site - but it will have a slightly different domain name.

Also reported by the ABC was an incident of scammers cloning the myGov website. Victims are sent an email claiming to come from Medicare requesting them to update their banking details via the site. 

Something fairly common with these types of scams is the lack of Australian domain names (i.e. ending in .au) being used to perpetrate them. This would be partly due to the more stringent eligibility criteria associated with registering .au names and Australian domain registrars generally being more vigilant in screening.

So, look for the .au - while it's not a 100% protective measure, any email with a link taking you to what claims to be the site of an Australian company or agency that doesn't end in .au should send up warning flags immediately. In case a .au domain has somehow been registered by a scammer, it's also good to check what's left of the dots to ensure the company's name is spelled correctly and it matches their official website domain.

Better still, navigate to the company's official web site directly. If in doubt of the authenticity of any email communication, contact the company or organisation directly to confirm if the communication is valid.

A recent report from the ACCC indicated many small businesses in Australia are being targeted by scammers, with $4.7 million reported losses in 2017 - a 23 per cent increase on 2016.

An interesting, but frightening, collection of current and historical statistics relating to the impact of scams generally can be viewed here.

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