Protecting Asia Pacific Businesses’ Online Presence

Companies today rely on their online presence to build and strengthen their brands, connect and do business with customers. The COVID-19 global pandemic may have disrupted and slowed business activity, but it has increased businesses and consumers’ reliance on the Internet and online resources.

However, the global pandemic appears to have fueled an increase in cyber squatting cases, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Domains may have previously been seen as a necessary business expense, today, they are viewed differently: 43% of respondents in a recent survey conducted by MarkMonitor recognized domain portfolios as important IP assets, assets that require protection.

Protecting businesses’ online presence means active management of their portfolio of domain names. Only in doing so can businesses prevent abuse or infringement that can damage brand equity and revenue.

Unique challenges in Asia Pacific

Pre-pandemic, Asia’s GDP was expected to surpass global GDP by the end of this year. Asia Pacific (APAC) is also expected to contribute substantially to a fast growing middle class entering the global economy. This represents a significant change in the importance and value of the region to global business and consumer activity.

However, the myriad of languages, social and economic demographics has long added to complexity to business activity, including domain management, in the region. For one, domain name registration services are often less than straightforward for Asian speakers. Terms and conditions are often not available in local language. This has led to many companies in Asia Pacific deciding against registering ccTLD domains. Corporate registrars have TLD experts that specialize in foreign registration requirements, transfer requirements and renewal requirements for each registry operator globally.

There are however few corporate registrars in Asia Pacific and  therefore companies have limited options. They can work with a corporate registrar outside of their native country and deal with language challenges or choose a local retail registrar.

Security a key concern

A bigger challenge is security. Most companies cite security as the most important consideration in domain management. Security threats are becoming more prevalent and more sophisticated. DNSSEC is a key factor to the new wave of DNS amplification attacks. This has, in turn, exposed security flaws in some registrar systems.

While domain name registry operators and registrars are working together to address the DNS abuse, these are the first steps of an industry-wide effort to effectively tackle DNS abuse. Companies can secure their domains by working with a security-focused corporate registrar that has the right processes and technologies in place to enforce security best practices and minimize risk.

Regulatory impact

In November 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Mainland China announced new, stricter regulations for companies publishing websites in the country. Every website publisher must have an Internet Content Provider (ICP) filing in order to legally host content on a website content for Mainland China residents.

The MIIT regulations stipulate that those with an ICP filing must have their domain names managed by a MIIT-licensed registrar. At present, almost all licensed registrars in Mainland China are local and predominantly retail registrars.

This, combined with the lack of localization, may explain why a majority of website domains in Asia Pacific are managed by retail registrars: of the 220 APAC companies in the Fortune 500, just 21.4% (47) are managed by corporate registrars.

Among the retail registrars, AliCloud and Xinnet from Mainland China, and Japan Registry Service from Japan manage the domains of 40% of the Fortune 500 APAC companies.

Limited budgets, tactical approach

Domain portfolio strategies in APAC are hampered by limited budgets and often, lack of strategic oversight. Recent research revealed that most APAC companies spend less than $10,000 annually on domain name management annually. Many companies simply renew their existing domains and frequently only respond when required, for instance when there is an infringement.

There is also the issue of who is responsible for domain management. The legal department manages domains for most companies in Mainland China. However, in Japan it’s a different picture, it is marketing who plays a greater role in domain management. Too often, such an approach creates gaps and a siloed approach with domain management.

Secure domain management for commercial success

Since the first domain was registered in 1985, domain names have evolved to become a vital element of modern business. For companies, managing and improving the performance of their domain portfolios is more critical than ever before. Security must be a priority. Organizations should consider whether the security protection that their corporate or retail registrar is sufficiently robust and take action if it is not.

There must also be a concerted, collaborative effort from a range of stakeholders including IT, legal, marketing and other departments when it comes to managing domain portfolios. Today, an integrated approach to domain management has yet to be fully embraced. Only 13% of businesses said that it is a shared responsibility according to a MarkMonitor survey. Through collaboration, domain strategies can truly become part of broader brand protection initiatives.

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