In a Digital World of Phishing, Hacks, & Counterfeiting, New Dot Brands Offer More Security & Trust

I recently received a phishing email that looked like it was from American Express (see image below). There was the famous AmEx logo and the subject was alarming: “Unusual Activity in Your American Express account.” I opened the email and a few warning signs became the red flags to know it was a phishing email. The “From:” line read “NOREPLAY@AMERICANEXPRESS.GOV.” I was pretty sure the real American Express wouldn’t have a typo of “noreply” to “noreplay” and I was pretty sure the real American Express didn’t have a .GOV address. But a consumer who might not notice all of those red flags could easily be lured into accessing the message center and logging in, providing their user ID and access code. At that point, the security of that user has been compromised. If only there was a way financial institutions could safeguard consumers form this type of confusion. Oh, wait, there is: the Dot Brand.

amex-phishing-email

With recent hacks at Target, Home Depot, and Sony bringing the issue of consumer trust and security to the attention of chief executives (CEOs) and boards across the world, the topic of security is front and center at most organizations. Many companies applied to operate their own generic top-level domain, including most of the major financial institutions like American Express, JP Morgan, Citi, Discover, PNC, Hartford, and big technology companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Semantic, just to name a few, along with hundreds of other household names.

The Dot Brand, or a generic top-level domain that is closed for exclusive use by a brand, creates a unique and new opportunity to build a safer community of the Internet and offer consumers more security and trust. In your Dot Brand, only you can issue domain names to you and your affiliates or customers. This means you can inherently gate it to ensure you are creating “safe” digital addresses and experiences in your exclusive digital world. It can create immediate cues to consumers of what is really you and what isn’t. In my phishing email, if American Express marketed to consumers to only trust emails ending in .AMEX or .AMERICANEXPRESS, it might be easier for a layman to visually recognize that something is wrong.

For companies that have licensed resellers, dealerships, or franchises, this creates a big win because only they can provide the dealers a domain name address. Let’s take car dealers for example. If you are BMW or Lexus, selling luxury cars, it’s important to you that only authorized dealers can promote that they sell your car. And, it’s important to consumers that they buy from authorized dealers.

Financial institutions can benefit more than anyone from a safer Internet. When only JP Morgan, PNC, or Discover can issue domain names, they can promote to consumers that they should only trust the site if it ends in their name. This is a big departure from what currently happens where people use search and don’t pay much attention to where the link takes them. If I received regular communication from my financial institutions to only trust emails and websites ending in their name, I might start to pay attention because this matters to me. All of this benefits consumers because now they have an easy way to understand if an email or communication is really from the company they trust or is someone phishing to scam them.

While this approach can’t completely stop bad guys from trying to phish and redirect consumers, it has created an additional layer of security and trust for consumers if they come to learn what the Dot Brand means. When combined with other security components, it certainly creates a strong business case to migrate your digital world, into a digital world you can keep safer.

Just a few of the key security benefits of the Dot Brand include:

  • Educating consumers to only trust an email or a domain name ending in your Dot Brand.
  • Brands can add Domain Name System Security Extension (DNSSEC) DNSSEC at the Top, Second & Third Level of their closed ecosystem, providing greater levels of security checks throughout their entire Internet neighborhood.
  • Brands can run bot and malware protection scans in all facets of its space and the spaces of its authorized dealers, licensees, etc.
  • Brands can create unique logins to their new Dot Brand space, adding an additional layer of brand connection, authenticity, and security.
  • Internally, brands can create stronger logins, authentication, and internal cloud-based solutions.

As demand increases, there will undoubtedly be new products and services developed to provide consumers more security within the Dot Brand space. A key part of the strategy in building a safer Internet neighborhood, however, is for Dot Brands to actually design and build the digital neighborhood and promote it to consumers. Dot Brands have the unique opportunity to build the Internet neighborhood they want. But, consumers have to be educated and come to understand the value of the Dot Brand as being authentic and safer. History has taught us consumers adopt quickly in a digital world, particularly if there is a key benefit to them.

When I talk to people outside the industry about the new Dot Brands, they inevitably ask, “Why would I want that?” When I explain how it gives them more trust in knowing that the site, page, or email is the brand they are looking for and not a look-a-like, they immediately get it. Once this is out there, the tipping point to other domain extensions will come quickly.

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