Technology

.Bank on Security: Trade Groups Hope New Domains Boost Safe Banking

A coalition of financial-industry groups is about to launch what might be the most exclusive top-level domain on the internet, and getting one won't be easy. The reason it's so exclusive? Bankers hope to use .bank as a way to boost security and consumer trust.

The risks of spear phishing and identity theft are enough to make a lot of customers second-guess the emails they get from their banks.

But the banking industry sees a solution to this issue, and it involves a top-level domain. Last September, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gave a coalition of industry groups—including the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR)—control over “.bank” in an effort to avoid an auction of the domain. The coalition also aims to take control of the similar “.insurance” domain.

Our organizations took the lead on this to ensure that the banking industry—not outsiders—would operate ‘.bank.’

“Our organizations took the lead on this to ensure that the banking industry—not outsiders—would operate ‘.bank,’ and that only legitimate members of the banking community could have a ‘.bank’ site,” ABA President and CEO Frank Keating said in a news release.

The coalition, fTLD Registry Services, will begin handing out the domains this year, but it won’t be as easy as hopping on GoDaddy—not by a long shot. Instead, companies vying for such access to the domain will have to meet a number of enhanced security requirements [PDF] that outline what both banks and domain registrars must do to make sure a company is deserving of such a domain. Beyond that, each company using a .bank domain will have to go through a re-evaluation process every two years or upon the expiration of a domain, and they can’t just pick any domain they want [PDF], either.

Thus far, just two registrars, EnCirca and LexSynergy, have met the industry’s tough guidelines. The domains will go on sale in May as part of a sunrise period; they’ll go on general sale in June.

By implementing these high requirements, trade groups such as ABA and FSR hope to turn the top-level domain into a sign of trust, with a reputation that precedes it. This could prove especially helpful when it comes to email—a medium where phishing scams are common and so-called Nigerian princes are trying to access your bank account.

“An enhanced opportunity to communicate with people via email: that excites marketers,” ABA Senior Vice President of Risk Management Policy Doug Johnson said at a recent conference, according to American Banker.

But, although noble, the .bank domain may not be universal. Big-name banking firms such as Citibank have purchased top-level domains of their own, meaning they wouldn’t have a use for an alternative. For smaller players, however, the domain could prove a reputational boon—well, as long as consumers are willing to embrace top-level domains that don’t end in .com.

The banking industry isn’t alone in this strategy. The National Association of Realtors is in the midst of launching a .realtor domain that only its members can purchase.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to include clarifications from fTLD Registry Services.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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