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Banking crisis creates a rush on bank domain names

Banking crisis creates a rush on bank domain names

Cybersquatters are capitalising on the current banking turmoil by registering Internet addresses related to recent bank mergers.

Cybersquatters are attempting to capitallise on the current banking turmoil by registering Internet addresses related to recent bank mergers.

Domain names for the merged Bank of America/Merrill Lynch as well as for Lloyds TSB/HBOS have already been sold online.

In one case, the domain name has already been listed on eBay, with the site directing visitors to the auction.

As reports of Lehman Brothers' intent to sell itself first surfaced last Friday, cybersquatters had already spotted Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America as potential buyers.

Accordingly, barclayslehman.com, hsbclehman.com, hsbclehmanbrothers.com and bofalehman.com had been acquired.

With the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America this week, cybersquatters registered bankofamericamerrilllynch.com and bofaml.com.

In the UK, speculation surrounding the merger of Lloyds TSB with HBOS prompted yet more cybersquatting, so that now lloydstsbhbos.com and hboslloydstsb.com are owned.

Phil Turnbull, Product Manager at Hostway, said: "It's almost certainly the last thing on people's minds, but with some unscrupulous parties looking to take advantage of the crisis in financial markets and the spate of banking mergers, organisations do need to be careful with protecting their intellectual property.

" This includes domain names, and with www.MerrillLynch-BankofAmerica.com being auctioned from $35,000, it is imperative that IT teams look to protect their trademarks and corporate identity.

Although companies can easily register variations of the domain name without the hyphen for substantially less than $35,000, the risk of these websites being developed by phishers still remains. If the website looks legitimate and has the right name, companies and individuals may be taken in.

Failure to register for the name could also result in loss of global corporate identity, or worse still third parties undermining company trademarks and even more expensive re-acquisitions of the domain name later on."

Jonathan Robinson, chief operating officer for NetNames, added: "The lightening speed at which these sites are emerging shows how quickly issues can escalate. As the banking industry faces some of the most urgent merger and acquisition talks of this century, cybersquatters are quickly cashing in by registering domain names for their own monetary gain.

He continued, "In the rush to do the deals, it's unlikely that anyone has the time to do comprehensive due diligence on all intellectual property assets. The gap is there for opportunists to grab domain names. This speculative activity highlights the need for organisations of all sorts to take a firm grip on the issue of online brand management and to understand all of the issues involved."

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