While locks, security, and CCTV can help deter attacks on physical premises – attacks on a brand’s online domain can be harder to guard against. A new global report commissioned by MarkMonitor shows nearly one-quarter of the world’s domains (23%) experienced a cyber attack in the last 12 months.
Brand Infringement is also a growing challenge, with almost half (46%) of 700 IT, Legal and Marketing decision-makers from international organizations reporting a rise. In recent years, the creative and commercial evolution in how brands are using domains and the launch of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) has opened up exciting commercial opportunities.
This advancement has increased exposure to damaging brand infringement, brand abuse, and cyber-attacks. In fact, the report shows that, of the 39% of brands that had registered a gTLD, 32% had experienced brand impersonation and abuse against it.
Rather than accept the risk or, conversely, miss out on opportunities, the research highlights an urgent need to do more to rethink siloed approaches to domain management and adopt a more cohesive approach to online brand protection. Domains play a key role in establishing and maintaining brands, and can be further used to support the launch of new products or services, and therefore must be properly secured and managed.
This, however, can be a challenge. Managing and reviewing a vast and evolving domain portfolio can be both costly and time-consuming. This is supported by the research which shows that of the 17% of brands who own between 250 and 1,000 domains, the most common domain management challenges are security (56%), cost (40%) and keeping track of domains (34%).
With brand security and reputation on the line, one area of major weakness is that the responsibility for domain management is frequently delegated to just one department. In most cases, this is IT/IT security (46%), while a significant number of businesses look to legal (16%) and marketing (13%) teams in isolation to carry out the crucial task. The renewal process is often stacked with risk, with as many as 21% of brands relying on a single employee and 26% trusting renewal notices to keep hold of their domains.
With one department or person in charge, decisions about which domains are more important than others, which are being used and which domains should be sold, will invariably not be informed by strategic operation-wide information. Crucially, if the individual leaves or moves on, their knowledge may not be properly passed on and deadlines missed – with far-reaching consequences.
Rather than ignoring the risk, organizations need to break the siloes around the domain management process and ensure it is included in the overall brand protection strategy. More than that, it should also be given board-level visibility and backing, which will help reduce security and infringement threats as well as streamline and optimize domain portfolios.
Specifically, regular monitoring can identify domains that are no longer adding value to the organization, helping it to streamline the domain portfolio while unlocking resources to focus on securing, managing and protecting core domains. This is especially relevant considering that most large organizations have a high number of domains that are not currently active – in fact, just 18% of brands approached had an active portfolio of between 75% and 100%.
Whether the brand is in the early stages of domain registrations or has a portfolio going back decades, adopting a business-wide online brand protection strategy is crucial. It needs to encompass domains, fraud and other forms of infringement, alongside political and legislative requirements. Only then can brands be secure in providing a more robust deterrent against the current challenging backdrop of infringement, fraud, brand abuse, and mounting cybersecurity threats.