With all of the recent cyber-attacks, hacking, domain hijacking, and intellectual property theft – your business is more under threat online than ever. Sometimes you may wonder if online is even worth it.

Most threats are now well recognised and there are ways to deal with them. With a few simple precautions, you can eliminate 95% of the risk, and the rest probably isn’t worth worrying about. Here are some simple tips to help protect you from people who want to leverage your hard-earned brand equity for their own profit.

Trademark

In the UK, trademarked terms are protected online under the law. Even the biggest company on the internet, Google, was unable for a while to use its ‘Gmail’ brand in the UK because someone else already owned the name. If you haven’t already done so, you should trademark your brand.

Brand your domain

Your domain name and brand name should be the same. Since so many domains are already taken, this may be difficult, so you might have to use a different brand online, though this means you lose the benefit of your existing brand awareness. If you cannot make your brand name your domain, at least include it in your domain.

Prevent domain hijacking

Make sure your domain is ‘locked’ by your domain registrar, to block unauthorised transfer requests. If you don’t, someone could gain control of your domain. This could be by deceiving your registrar into passing control to them. For example, by telling them you have left the company and they have taken over.

Keep out the hackers

Having your website hacked can cause immediate harm to your business – and longer-term damage to your reputation. Most hackers break in for the challenge rather than any real malevolence. One of the most common and easiest types of hack uses a dictionary to try to guess your FTP password. Make sure it is not easy to guess or stored anywhere an unauthorised person could find it. If you manage your domain name through an online control panel, treat that in the same way.

Claim your brand

Make sure every page on your eCommerce website and every downloadable document includes your brand name and logo in a prominent position. There should be no doubt about your rights to ownership of your brand. Without going over the top, make it clear that you fully intend to protect that ownership.

Protect your copyright

Put a clear and visible copyright notice on every page of your eCommerce website, and in any documents you publish online (eg pdfs). Search Google occasionally for a few unique phrases that you have used on your site, enclosing them in quotes, to see if anyone has copied them. If they are partners or resellers, that may not be a problem. Otherwise, write or email them with instructions to remove the content.

Search advertising

One way online competitors can try to use your brand name to their advantage is to pay search engines to display their ‘pay-per-click’ advertisement to everyone who searches for you. This is a deceptive practice and one that can be quite confusing for customers.

In the UK you can prevent advertising against your registered trademark, and Google, Yahoo! and MSN all have procedures for dealing with infringements. Try politely emailing the offender asking them to desist, but often it saves time and effort to go straight to the search engine and have it removed.

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