ZNet Technologies to address the growing demand for IT security services in the regional Indian markets by making available wide range of GlobalSign SSL solutions via its partner network
ZNet Technologies (a subsidiary of RP tech India), India’s leading cloud services provider offering cloud infrastructure and managed services to partners and end customers across the globe, today announced that it has entered into IT security services distribution business by joining hands with GMO GlobalSign.
GlobalSign is a leading provider of trusted identity and security solutions for the enterprises and one of the longest established Certificate Authority (CA) in the world.
Becoming a distributor will enable ZNet Technologies to have all the requisite tools and resources to facilitate the adoption of a wide range of GlobalSign’s identity and security solutions in the regional market with the help of its vast partner network.
The solutions include Web Server Security, Authentication & Access Control, Secure Email, Code & Document Signing, and managed platforms for SSL and PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) as well as more diverse range of integration solutions such as Auto Enrollment Gateway utilizing Active Directory.
“We are honored that GlobalSign, a leader in global PKI, IoT (Internet of Things) and digital signing solutions, has chosen ZNet Technologies as their distributor for India. Organizations want the right security tools in place to be able to run their digital businesses effectively without having to worry about identity theft, email phishing, securing their network traffic, etc. With advanced solutions in these areas from GlobalSign, ZNet will be able to work with partners to build a more secure IT set-up for businesses.,” said Munesh Jadoun, CEO & Founder, ZNet Technologies.
“We are excited to have ZNet Technologies as one of our prominent partners in India. They have a vast network of partners and their expertise and dedication towards security is very admirable, and we look forward to working together,” said Aditya Anand, General Manager, India, SAARC & Middle East, GMO GlobalSign.
93% of consumers and 97% of enterprises perform data backup at least once a year, according to the World Backup Day surveyby Acronis.
World Backup Day falls on March 31, and is aimed to highlight the importance of data protection using backups. The reason it falls on March 31 is to remind everyone that if they don’t want to lose data and look like a fool on April 1, then they must securely back up their data.
Acronisis a leading provider of backup software and data protection solutions. It is conducting backup surveys for the last 4 years to learn about the habits of consumers related to backup, cyberthreat awareness, and data loss experiences. This year, the company surveyed individuals and businesses in 11 countries.
Key findings of the Acronis’ World Backup Day survey:
1. 93% of consumers and 97% of enterprises create data backup at least once a year. Of those, 73% of consumers do it monthly or weekly, while 86% of enterprises do it monthly, weekly, or daily.
2. In 2019, only 7.3% of respondents never back up their data, down from 31.4% in 2018.
3. However, only 10.3% of respondents back up their data to a hybrid of local and cloud storage. 90% of consumers and 73% of enterprises don’t back up their data to a hybrid of local and cloud storage.
4. 45% of consumers reported that they have more than four devices at home.
5. Regardless of the backup, 65% of consumers suffered data loss from a computer or mobile devices, either by themselves or their family members. On the other hand, 29% of enterprises reported a data loss that caused downtime.
6. 60% of enterprises are concerned or highly concerned about crypto-jacking.
7. 61% of enterprises said that they are concerned or highly concerned about ransomware.
8. Whereas, 61% of enterprises are concerned or highly concerned about social engineering attacks.
9. 70% of consumers said that they wouldn’t deny paying $50 to $500 for recovering data loss.
10. 46% of consumers have no idea about ransomware, while 53% don’t know about crypto-jacking. Another 53% of consumers have no idea about social engineering attacks.
Machine learning is declining the risks of phishing attacks, but the number of such attacks are still on the rise, finds the 24th edition of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR).
Microsoft analyzes over 6.5 trillion security signals every day to get a wide and unique perspective into latest trends in the cybersecurity arena. The company has been releasing the security intelligence report for more than a decade now to share its expert insights with the enterprises.
The SIR this year is reflected on security events in 2018, including overview of security landscape, lessons learnt from it, and best practices that need to be followed. Some of the cybersecurity trends in 2018 included rise in cryptocurrency mining and supply chain compromises, decline in ransomware, and more.
Attackers are increasingly mining cryptocurrency in the background of user systems, without their permission and awareness. This activity significantly consumes bandwidth and causes security risks to users.
Having said that, let’s have a deep dive into the key findings of the Microsoft’s latest security report.
Key takeaways from Microsoft Security Intelligence Report:
1. Ransomware encounters declined significantly in 2018
Ransomware attacks like WannaCrypt and Petya were the biggest security events in 2017. Such attacks locks or encrypt computers and then demands money from users to restore access. It was anticipated that these ransomware attacks will increase in future.
However, the latest report says that ransomware encounter rates have declined by around 60% between March 2017 and December 2018.
The main reason behind this decline is improved detection and education among enterprises. This made it tough for cybercriminals to get what they were intending.
Highest ransomware encounter rate:
The highest average ransomware encounter rate per month were found in Ethiopia (0.77%), followed by Mongolia (0.46%), Cameroon (0.41%), Myanmar (0.33%), and Venezuela (0.31%).
Lowest ransomware encounter rate:
On the other hand, the lowest ransomware encounter rates per month were found in Ireland (0.01%), Japan (0.01%), the United States (0.02%), United Kingdom (0.02%), and Sweden (0.02%).
2. Cryptocurrency mining is becoming prevalent
Since the cybercriminals found it difficult to conduct ransomware attacks, they shifted their efforts to cryptocurrency mining. As a result, the cryptocurrency mining is increasing.
While the average ransomware encounter rate in 2018 was just 0.05%, the same for cryptocurrency coin mining encounter was 0.12%.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereumwork as digital money and can be used anonymously. However, the cryptocurrencies require users to perform some calculations that are resource intensive. While new cryptocurrency coins are released very frequently these days, the calculations are becoming more difficult.
Mining of top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoinis almost impossible, if the immense computing resources are not accessible. As a result, the cybercriminals have turned to a malware that helps them gain access to the computers of victims and then mine cryptocurrency coins. By this way, they can leverage the processing power of hundreds of thousands of computers, rather than one or two.
Highest cryptocurrency mining encounter rate:
Ethiopia (5.58%), Tanzania (1.83%), Pakistan (1.47%), Kazakhstan (1.24%), and Zambia (1.13%) are the five locations with the highest cryptocurrency coin mining encounter rates in 2018.
Lowest cryptocurrency mining encounter rate:
The lowest average monthly coin mining encounter rate was approx. 0.02% in 2018. Ireland, Japan, the US, and China were the locations with lowest rate during the period.
3. Browser-based cryptocurrency mining comes to the scene
Typically, the cryptocurrency miners are installed on the computers of victims in the form of malware. But a new kind of threat has come to scene, where the malware is based entirely within web browsers, which doesn’t need to be installed on the computers.
These are browser-based cryptocurrency miners that don’t need to compromise the computers. Such miners can impact the computer performance and waste electricity while the users browse the compromised websites.
According to the report, Brocoiner was the most prevalent browser-based cryptocurrency in 2018.
4. Software supply chains are at risk
Attackers try to compromise the development or update process of a legitimate software to gain access to the software and systems of people who use the compromised software.
By injecting the malicious code into the software, attackers can easily gain the same trust and permissions as the software. This has become a primary concern for IT leaders as these attacks are increasing and can make the enterprise IT departments vulnerable.
For example, the first major software supply chain in 2018 was found in March. Microsoft’s Windows Defender ATP blocked a massive campaign that was delivering Dofoil trojan, also called Smoke Loader.
The attackers had replaced the update package of an application with malicious code. This trojan had carried a coin mining payload and exhibited advanced cross-process injection techniques, persistence mechanisms, and evasion methods.
Windows Defender Antivirus had blocked over 400k infection attempts, in the first 12 hours of the campaign.
5. Email phishing is still a preferred attack method
Office 365 is the most popular enterprise productivity available out there. Microsoft said that it analyzes over 470 billion email messages per month to scan phishing and malware. In 2018, the phishing messages in inbound emails increased by 250%.
It shows that email phishing is still one of the most preferred attack methods for cybercriminals. Microsoft is rapidly strengthening the email security with anti-phishing protection, detection, and investigation. But, since the emails involve human decisions and judgement, it is a problem to completely get rid of the phishing.
Domain spoofing— the email message domain is an exact match with the original domain name.
Domain impersonation— the email message domain is a look alike of the original domain name.
User impersonation— the email message appears to come from someone you trust.
Credential phishing links—the email message contains a link to a page that resembles a login page for a legitimate site, so users will enter their login credentials.
Phishing attachments—the email message contains a malicious file attachment that the sender entices the victim to open.
Links to fake cloud storage locations— the email message appears to come from a legitimate source and entices the user to give permission and/or enter personal information such as credentials in exchange for accessing a fake cloud storage location.
For full Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR), click here. Microsoft has also created an interactive website to allow users dig into the data specific to the regions.
Phishing is one of the most popular and easiest social engineering techniques to exploit online users
Kaspersky Lab experts have detected a sharp increase in phishing activities from criminals offering users various romantic goods on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day. The total number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites with a romantic theme that were detected and blocked during the first half of February more than doubled compared to the same time in 2018, a reminder that fraudsters are always looking for an excuse to steal users’ data and money.
Phishing is one of the most popular and easiest social engineering techniques to exploit online users. It is a type of fraud where criminals use deception to acquire users’ credentials – from passwords to credit card numbers, bank account details and other financially important information. Phishing emails and websites usually come disguised as legitimate ones that encourage a recipient, for one reason or another, to urgently enter their personal data. They are often fueled by the news agenda, be it major sport event or thematic holidays. St. Valentine’s Day is no exception.
The overall number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites that were detected and blocked by Kaspersky Lab solutions in the first half of February 2019 – the days leading up to February 14th – dramatically peaked from over two million in 2018 to more than 4.3 million this year. According to statistics, the most affected countries were Brazil (a more than 6.4% share of detections), Portugal (more than 5.8%), and Venezuela (5.5%). They were followed by Greece (5.3%) and Spain (5.1%).
Deeper analysis into the sent emails has shown that fraudsters are particularly exploiting pre-order gift items and performance enhancing drugs as a trap to lure users into sharing their credentials in order to please their loved ones. This again proves the findingsof Kaspersky Lab’s own survey, indicating that when it comes to love, users tend to lose their vigilance.
“Our research has shown that there is no difference between phishing activities exploiting major sporting events, fake payment bills, or a more romantic pretext. They all just need to drive users’ emotions, be it excitement, stress, or love. Thus, almost anything can become an attack tool in the cyber fraudsters’ hands. The detected spike reminds us that we should always be cautious when surfing the web even we are just buying flowers for our loved one,” warns Andrey Kostin, Senior Web-Content Analyst at Kaspersky Lab.
Phishers often exploit emotions – including those connected with relationships and love. Signs that there could be phishers aiming to exploit your romantic expectations include messages that demand immediate action, ask for vast amounts of very personal and seemingly irrelevant information, or which simply sound too good to be true.
Pay extra attention to emails promising ‘one time only’ offers or various goods for free. If emails come from people or organisations you don’t know or have suspicious or unusual addresses think twice before opening. Do not click on links until you are sure that they are legitimate and start with ‘https’, especially when any personal or financial information is asked for.
Have a separate bank card and account with a limited amount of money, specifically for buying flowers or making a table reservation. This will help to avoid serious financial losses if your bank details are stolen.
Use a reliable security solution with anti-phishing and secure payment capabilities, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud.
Sectigo (formerly Comodo CA) is looking to protect enterprises in Middle East against phishing, business email compromise (BEC), and other web security threats.
As a part of this, the company has expanded collaboration with its partners in Middle East, which includes BroadBITS, Checksum Consultancy, and Hayyan Horizons.
Sectigo will now deliver web security solutions and consultancy services to enterprises in Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. These solutions will modernize the digital identity strategies and help enterprises reduce cybersecurity risks.
“Business email compromise (BEC) attacks are on the rise. In 2018, spoofing or BEC attacks rose 250 percent and spear-phishing attacks in companies saw a 70 percent increase (IndustryWeek),” explained Victor Schooling, Regional Director, Middle East and Africa, Sectigo.
“Organizations throughout the Gulf States and Jordan are eager for email encryption and digital signing solutions that minimize these and other risks. We’ve chosen our initial Middle East partners for their excellent reputations and commitment to addressing important cybersecurity challenges.”
The cybersecurity solutions available to enterprises in Middle East will include Sectigo Certificate Manager, Secure Email Certificates (S/MIME), and Sectigo Private CA.
Sectigo Certificate Manager is a cloud-based platform that allows customers to manage, public, private and IoT device certificates from a single platform. It comes with required tools, support, and capabilities that can help in minimizing risks, respond to threats faster, and optimize operational costs.
“Expired certificates can be incredibly costly to a company,” added Naveed Ahmed, General Manager, BroadBITS.
“By offering Sectigo Certificate Manager, we are helping clients prevent incidents like Ericsson’s global outage in December, which resulted in UK mobile carrier O2 seeking millions in damages.”
The Secure Email Certificates (S/MIME) is going to help in combatting BEC attacks. The solution digitally signs and encrypts email communications across the enterprise. It supports top email apps such as Microsoft Outlook, Exchange, mobile operating systems, etc.
“Checksum is dedicated to ensuring that information security enables businesses to advance their digital strategy. Sectigo innovations, such as its Zero Touch S/MIME solution, will greatly help CIOs and IT managers save time and money through efficient and effective cybersecurity administration,” said Mohamed Omar, Principal Consultant at Checksum Consultancy Co.
Whereas, the Sectigo Private CA allows enterprises to create their own private root certificates. These root certificates can be used to issue private and end-entity certificates for internal servers, users and devices, while meeting compliance requirements of corporate and industry.
“We have found Sectigo a great partner to work with. The company’s offerings are proven and strong, and we appreciate the team’s dedication,” said Ali Tamimi, Founder and Managing Director, Hayyan Horizons.
In September last year, Sectigo had also joined hands Korea Information CA to expand partnership in Asia and offer digital web security solutions in Vietnam and Indonesia.
The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are going to be the top trends in 2019 to impact technology and security. These trends will be driven by growth in data volume that is processed and analyzed, rapid adoption of cloud, and development of smart products. Additionally, the fifth generation of internet (5G) that is expected to roll out in 2020, will also impact the technology and security.
Trend Micro, the leading cybersecurity and defense firm, released a new report titled “Mapping the Future: Dealing With Pervasive and Persistent Threats” which includes security predictions for 2019 and beyond. For these predictions, the experts at Trend Micro analyzed progress of current and emerging technologies, user behavior, market trends, as well as their impact on threat landscape.
Top Cyber Security Predictions for 2019
Among the cybersecurity predictions for 2019, Trend Micro mentioned the rise in actual fraud using stolen credentials, more lives will be claimed because of sextortion, and countries will witness more collateral damage. Further, cyber propaganda and fake news will decide the future of countries.
Having said that, following are the key findings and highlights of the Trend Micro Security Predictions for 2019.
Cases of phishing to rise in 2019
Phishing attacks are those cyber threats where attackers try to win trust of users by pretending to be a trustworthy person. They get sensitive information from users and carry out the attack. Over the years, these attackers are trying to carry out phishing attacks without much activity from users, so that they can do their work easily.
As per the report, phishing attacks are on the rise and will continue to increase in 2019. The phishing attacks will be observed in emails, SMS, messaging accounts, online banking credentials, and accounts used for cloud services.
Cybercriminals will target famous YouTubers and other social media personalities
Attackers will target the social media accounts of users having millions of followers. Accounts of famous YouTubers, brand influencers, and other famous personalities with several million followers are more likely to be compromised using phishing attacks.
Cybercriminals will use these accounts to attack the followers by making them join campaigns for DDoS (distributed denial of service) or cryptocurrency mining.
The stolen credentials can also be used to register in various rewards programs that can make money for attackers. The report highlights that attackers can also use stolen accounts for registration of trolls on social media for cyber propaganda.
If the attackers get access to numerous social media accounts, they can use it to add fake votes to polls, and other nasty purposes.
Work-from-home devices will become entry points for attackers to enterprise network
Remote-working culture is trending nowadays among enterprises, as more employees are choosing to work from home. In 2016, around 43% employees in America were working from home, up from 39% in 2012, finds Gallup.
This culture affects the visibility of enterprises to handle data movements. When employees use internet from home for using cloud-based applications and collaboration software, the IT team of the company can’t control them the way they do for devices within the company.
Hence, the remote devices sometimes become a mix of personal and enterprise network. Since, the personal devices don’t exhibit as strong security as the enterprise devices, attackers can enter the enterprise network from these remote devices.
Non GDPR-compliant enterprises will be penalized
EU’s General Data Regulation Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into effect this year hasn’t exercised all its new powers as most of the companies needed more time to comply with the law. But these regulations will needed to be strictly followed in 2019, or the companies will be penalized the full 4% of their annual revenue.
To properly comply with all the points of GDPR, the companies will need to rethink of the data privacy and security technologies. Trend Micro expects that by 2020, around 75% of new enterprise apps will need to choose between compliance and security.
“While privacy and security are not mutually exclusive, efforts to ensure data privacy compliance will have a detrimental effect on a company’s ability to adequately determine the source and details of a security threat,” explained Trend Micro in its report.
Emails of C-level executives will be compromised
One of the primary ways for attackers to make money is to compromise business emails. As a result of this, they will get deep down to the hierarchy of the company. They will focus on the assistants or secretary of C-level executives, or a manager of finance department.
Cybercriminals will blackmail non-compliant enterprises
GDPR will open new source of income for cybercriminals. How? Well, they will look out for companies that are not compliant with the regulations. If any non-compliant company is found, they will blackmail them and demand ransom, or the non-complaint status will be exposed.
These are some of the key findings of Trend Micro’s Security Predictions for 2019. The full report is available here.
On average, an organization experiences over 2,200 misconfigured incidents every month in their public cloud instances, according to a report by McAfee. These cloud instances include infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).
For the report, titled Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, McAfee analyzed billions of events in anonymized cloud production use to find the current state of cloud deployments and expose risks.
“Operating in the cloud has become the new normal for organizations, so much so that our employees do not think twice about storing and sharing sensitive data in the cloud,” said Rajiv Gupta, senior vice president of the Cloud Security Business, McAfee.
“Accidental sharing, collaboration errors in SaaS cloud services, configuration errors in IaaS/PaaS cloud services, and threats are all increasing. In order to continue to accelerate their business, organizations need a cloud-native and frictionless way to consistently protect their data and defend from threats across the spectrum of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.”
Key findings of McAfee’s Cloud Adoption and Risk Report:
21% of data in cloud is sensitive
According to the report, organizations consider around a quarter of their data in the cloud as sensitive. This shows that putting sensitive data in cloud has increased by 53% year over year. Organizations are at risk of the sensitive data being stolen or leaked in case a misconfigured cloud incident occurs.
Today, more and more organizations are using public cloud for providing new digital experiences to their customers. But the organizations that haven’t adopted a cloud strategy are at risk of losing their most valuable asset. A right cloud strategy can include data loss protection, configuration audits, and collaboration controls.
Further, organizations without cloud strategy are also exposing themselves to risk of noncompliance with internal and external regulations.
20% of sensitive data in cloud runs through email services
No doubt, the cloud services help organizations accelerate their business by making the more agile with resources, offering ability to scale and opportunities for collaboration.
Cloud services like Office 365 increase the effectiveness of collaboration, that involves sharing. However, uncontrolled sharing can result in data exposure. The report found that 22% of cloud users share files externally, an increase of 21% YoY.
Sharing of sensitive data with an open, publicly accessible link has increased by 23%, whereas, sensitive data sent to personal email address has increased by 12% YoY.
Top collaboration and file sharing services
For last five years, an Office 365 application is dominating the list of top 10 collaboration services, followed by G Suite services.
Enterprises using IaaS and PaaS had 14 misconfigured services running at any given time
Currently, 65% organizations globally are using some form of IaaS, while 52% are using PaaS.
Since, it is costly to buy and maintain servers, organizations go for IaaS and PaaS. It gives IT teams the ability to spin up virtual machines, containers or functions as a service, as per the need.
For IaaS and PaaS, organizations are trusting Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) the most. AWS clearly leads the pack with 94% of all IaaS usage share. Azure and GCP account for 3.7% and 1.3% shares respectively.
Additionally, 78% of organizations are using a multi-cloud strategy, leveraging both AWS and Azure together.
McAfee study found that on average, enterprises using IaaS and PaaS had 14 misconfigured services running at any given time, resulting in an average of 2,269 misconfiguration incidents per month.
80% organizations experience at least 1 compromised account threat per month
As per the report, most of the threats to data in cloud results from compromised accounts and insider threats. On average, an organization generates over 3.2 billion threat events per month in the cloud. These threat events include compromised account, privileged user, insider threat etc. Such events have increased by 27.7% YoY.
80% of all organizations report that they experienced at least one compromised account threat per month. Whereas, 92% of organizations has stolen cloud credentials for sale on the Dark Web.
For security of sensitive data in cloud storage, file-sharing and collaboration applications, enterprises will need to first understand the cloud services they are using. Further, they must identify which services hold sensitive data, and how that data is being shared and with whom.
When they know these things, they can push suitable security policies to prevent highly sensitive data from being stored in unapproved cloud services. They also need to continuously audit and monitor their IaaS and PaaS configurations.
Download the full Cloud Adoption & Risk Report here.
On average, a DNS attack costs $715,000 to organizations globally, up from $456,000 a year before, according to 2018 DNS Threat Report by EfficientIP.
EfficientIP surveyed 1000 organizations around Europe, Asia Pacific and North America to analyze the technical and behavioral causes of the rise in DNS (domain name system) threats, their effects on business, and remedies.
The report highlighted that organizations faced average seven DNS attacks in 2017, which costed around $5 million in damages. The organizations which don’t secure the DNS are at a higher risk of data loss, service downtime, compliance failure or compromised public image.
Key findings of the 2018 DNS Threat Report:
Average cost per attack increasing YoY
77% of the organizations were found subject to a DNS attack in 2018. The research shows that the average cost of damages caused by a DNS attack has increased by 57% over the previous year. The cost per attack varied country by country. For instance, cost per attack in France is $974,000, whereas it costs $654,000 to organization in North America.
DNS-based malware and phishing: Top DNS threats in 2018
DNS-based malware (36%) and Phishing (36%) are the most popular DNS threats in 2018, both of which have increased as compared to last year. Along these attacks, the DDoS attacks, Lock-up Domain attacks, and DNS Tunneling are the top DNS attacks, each of which accounts for 20% of all the DNS attacks in 2018.
DNS attacks damage brand image
The major cyber-attacks like WannaCryand NotPetya caused financial/brand damage and customer churn for organizations globally.
Due to DNS attacks, 40% of the organizations suffered cloud outages, 33% were victims of data theft, whereas, 22% lost their business. On average, an organization takes 7 hours to mitigate the attack, up 40% from a year before.
All industries vulnerable to DNS attacks
Further, the report revealed that all the industries are vulnerable to DNS attacks. The public sector takes the longest to mitigate an attack, while healthcare faces the highest cloud downtime. The telecom sector had the most sensitive customer information stolen, while it costed the highest to financial sector.
“Worryingly, the frequency and financial consequences of DNS attacks have risen and businesses are late in implementing purpose-built security solutions to prevent, detect and mitigate attacks. On the positive side, business and IT leaders globally now have a better understanding on why DNS is fundamental to ensuring business continuity and data confidentiality, so securing DNS has become a top priority for them,” said David Williamson, CEO of EfficientIP.
I remember being very apathetical when the new generic top level domain (gTLD) application system opened on January 12, 2012. With the exception of .CO, new gTLD launches of the past like Biz, Info, Travel, Mobi, etc. had failed to marginalize .COM’s dominant position and there was no reason to think otherwise for the forthcoming ones.
I’ve been proven wrong overtime. The industry has shown great interest in the new gTLDs. With as many as 1930 applications received by the ICANN, the new gTLDs are touted to be the next big thing in the domain arena. Their journey once they hit the market will be a very interesting one to watch; some of them’ll be successful and some won’t. But I genuinely doubt if any one of them will be able to have as big an impact as .CO has.
The only extension to have carved out a market niche for itself, .CO is not just a very interesting product, but it is a success story. It is an epitome of innovation, of breaking existing norms, of setting new standards and most importantly, of having faith in your own ideas. It would be hyperbolic, but totally justified, I think, to say that .CO is apposite for great ideas building online.
Now before this begins to look like a paid prologue written by the folks at .CO themselves, over to Lori Anne Wardi, Vice President, .CO Internet, whom we recently had an opportunity to interact with. Read away as she speaks about the genesis of .CO, .CO Membership program, .CO Scholarship program, new gTLDs, plans for Q3 and Q4 and much more. Its a long read, but definitely worth it.
Our vision was to make .CO a global brand, one that was synonymous with innovation, entrepreneurship, big ideas coming to life and people fulfilling their business aspirations online.
– Lori Anne Wardi, Vice President,.CO Internet.
Q: Let’s begin with a brief introduction of yours and a broad overview of .CO Internet.
A: I am Lori Anne Wardi and I am the Vice President of .CO Internet.
I am also one of the co-founders of the company. When we launched .CO 3 years ago, our intention was to disrupt the status-quo that existed in the domain industry.
Because when we looked around the internet landscape, we noticed that disruption was everywhere, especially in the area of internet infrastructure. Everyone was doing interesting and innovating things and everything online was shifting and morphing.
But for some reason, in the world of domain names, it was a stagnant scenario. Everybody assumed that with .com exhausted, they had to pay billions of dollars to get a domain name of their choice. There was a sense of scarcity and everybody kind of accepted the status-quo.
Also, there was not a single domain extension that created a brand around itself. They were just viewed like a commodity to get on the internet; there was no brand association, affiliation or sense of identity to any of them. It didn’t seem right.
Therefore, we thought why can’t there be a change in the domain industry and why does .com have to be the only game in the town with other TLDs just lingering without adding any value!
When we had the opportunity to launch .CO, we decided to do things differently and shake up the industry a little bit.
We wanted to de-commoditize the domains. Our vision was to make .CO a global brand, one that was synonymous with innovation, entrepreneurship, big ideas coming to life and people fulfilling their business aspirations online.
And we’ve been able to do it successfully. We have grown really fast since we launched. We have more than 1.5 million domain names registered by people in over 200 countries, the US being the largest percentage, closely followed by the UK and a lot of other English speaking countries like Canada, Australia and India.
Q: .CO is probably the only TLD that has been able to marginalize .COM’s dominant position significantly, that too in a very small period of time. What according to you are some of the key factors that made .CO a relatively bigger success than .info, .mobi or .tel?
A: Well, I think there are a few things. One of them is branding. As I said, we started to create a brand around the domain. Other domains until now had only competed on the price and placement in the drop down box at the registrar. Those were the only few ways in which a customer could decide between one domain or another. We decided early on that we wanted to market directly to the consumers so when they showed up at the registrar ready to buy a domain, they came looking for .CO, they didn’t just find it on the list and then try to figure out whether or not they should get it.
Also, when we tried to find businesses on some of the domain extensions that had sold a lot of names, we came across only parked pages, phishing and link farms. We didn’t want that. It’s one thing to sell a lot of domain names, but if you sell a lot of names and know that no one is building anything of substance on your extension, then its kind of a hollow victory. We didn’t want to be a domain name ghetto. We wanted to have a thriving community of entrepreneurs building really cool things so that we would have the next Facebook or Instagram or Twitter building on .CO.
So we tried to get to know who the people and companies were who were using .CO and to support, encourage and promote them in their efforts and give them access to opportunities. In fact this was one of the primary reasons why we started our membership program.
Q: Please throw some light on .CO’s Membership Program. What value can bootstrapped entrepreneurs expect to derive from it?
A: We realize that most entrepreneurs and small businesses don’t buy a domain name because they want a domain name (unless they’re domainers who’re buying domains to buy and sell them), it’s because they have a business dream or an aspiration that they want to fulfil or something else that they are trying to build. So we thought, let’s get to the heart of why people buy a domain name and try to get to know who these people are and what they are trying to do, so that we can help them. And if we can help them succeed, then we can sustain our mission, which is to create a really exciting community of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Our membership program lets us do this by giving startups access to educational and networking events, where they can meet with people who would give them opportunities like pitching their business, fund raising etc.
Q: Do you provide some sort of financial backing too?
A: No, we don’t invest in the companies. What we do is that we invest in their success by finding opportunities to promote them and showcase what they do to our network, and since we end up supporting a lot of startups and innovators that are like minded, they all start to support and help each other.
For instance, when there is a really interesting story about a new .CO business, we contact a couple of blogs that’re built on .CO and say ‘hey, you should check out this story you might want to write about’, and every once in a while they will.
So it is a community where everybody is vested in the success of .CO. The early adopters took a bet to go with a new domain extension and build their business or blog on .CO, and now that it has started to pay off, they want the new businesses that pop up every day on .CO to succeed too.
Q: .CO has gained huge traction among small businesses. Were SMBs your primary target from the word Go?
A: I would like to say yes, but, in the very very beginning, we were going for everybody, because .CO is such a broad word, it could mean company, community, contact, commerce etc.
As soon as we started, we realized that the world is a pretty big place and we can’t effectively go for everybody. We are a small business and a startup ourselves and we have to hone in on our target market.
Now even the SMB market is really big. So instead of going straight to SMBs, which are our target market and always will be, right now we have honed in on the ecosystem of tech savvy entrepreneurs and startups that may have an idea that can easily work online and that’re interested in taking risks and destructing the status quo in their own industries.
So yes, we are going for the SMB market, but we are taking the path of first targeting entrepreneurs and innovators in the tech savvy community.
Q: And recently you also met with success on enterprise level too with twitter registering Vine.co.
A: Yes, that was a huge win for us. Wallmart also just launched a new business on the .CO called goodies.CO and I think that only happened because of the traction we have gained during these 3 years. I don’t think that they’d have done this when we first launched because we needed a little time to prove that we really were going to build a space where companies like Twitter and Wallmart can build their new products.
To get a pat on the back and passive endorsements from companies like Vine.CO and goodies.CO is really exciting for us and we work hard to make sure that we live up to the faith they put in us. We do everything to keep this faith as clean as possible and make sure that there are no real security threats like phishing, farming, cybersquatting etc.
Q: Any more examples of big enterprises who’ve recently adopted .CO?
A: There is a big insurance company called Aspen Group who is using Aspen.co. Some companies such as CISCO (CS.CO), American Express (amex.co), Virgin America (virg.co) and Starbucks (sbux.co) are using .CO for URL shortening in social media.
It is really exciting for us because to be honest, when we launched we didn’t expect to have a lot of big brands that needed branded URL shorteners using .CO to complement their existing URL. We never intended to get people to switch their domain; our intention was just to get new businesses to launch on .CO.
I guess the recent happenings are a sign of evolving internet landscape and we happen to be a great URL for that.
Q: Please give our readers a brief overview of the recent .CO Survey conducted by Wakefield Research.
A: We conducted this survey because we wanted to get into the minds of the consumer and try to understand what is it that they are thinking about when they come to buy a domain name and why do most people have a pervasive feeling that .com is synonymous with the internet.
We wanted to know whether they are even aware that there are other domain extensions out there, do they think about them and do they understand the distinction between one and the other.
The results were very interesting as we learnt that not only do they lack knowledge about different domain extensions, but nearly half of them don’t have even a web presence at all. Which is kind of shocking and also an interesting opportunity for anyone in the domain business, website building or website hosting business to identify all these people who don’t even have a website.
Also, we found that among the ones that do have a web presence, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the website they have. I think that this is due to the fact that until now, there has been a sense of scarcity around domain names., so people thought they had to settle for really long silly sounding names with hyphens, weird spellings and numbers just because they couldn’t get the name that they wanted.
One of my favourite stats from the survey is that 46 % of small businesses say that they are more likely to find a 100 dollar bill on the street than find a .com name that hasn’t been taken.
So it’s a common frustration among small business owners who don’t understand the Internet well, don’t know about other domain extensions and think that if they can’t get their first choice .com, they’ve to settle for something on the lines of bobsbagelsnewyorkcity11297.com.
Q: 63% of business owners revealed that they don’t pay attention to the TLDs while choosing a domain name. Does .CO have any roadmap in place to educate these SMBs and public in general about the importance of the right side of the dot?
A: Definitely, because we found that the main reason that prohibits people from buying a .CO is the lack of awareness that exists. They don’t even know that we’re a credible option besides .com.
So we do have plans to educate them. In fact, the key reason behind our partnership with GoDaddy for the last few years over the super bowl commercials is just to create a global awareness that .CO exists. And we worked really hard on the messaging on this year’s YourBigIdea.co super bowl commercial in particular, because we wanted to let the average persons sitting and watching the super bowl realize that their own ideas are meaningful and they shouldn’t sweep them under the rug, and to inspire them to get off the couch, take their idea seriously and put it online before someone else does.
Q: How has the response to YourBigIdea.co commercial been so far?
A: It’s very hard to identify the benefits and value that we receive from doing the ads, because the main reason we do an ad is not for immediate sale on that day or that week, but to create an awareness and to get the world to know that .CO exists .
Since the time we did our 1st super bowl ad in 2011, the number of .CO names under the management has more than doubled. There has been a considerable growth in the revenue, market share and most importantly, brand awareness.
That said, we think that this year’s ad was by far the best we did. It met with a huge amount of critical acclaim, which is exciting because the last two ones were panned by the critics. It also set a record for the highest internet traffic on the website and we know that it engaged the community in terms of conversations on social media.
And while we definitely got a surge in the number of registrations throughout the whole week the ad ran and on the weekend, the real value of the ad, for us, is going to be seen over the course of the whole year because it will be re-broadcast frequently. It was never intended just for the week of the super bowl. It was an investment for building awareness among the global audience and potential business owners.
Q: The 52% of SMBs who’re willing to change their current web address will have a plethora of options with the new gTLDs that’re going to hit the market soon. What according to you makes .CO a better choice for them than the generic TLDs?
A: To be honest with you, there is a lot of uncertainly in the industry in general about the forthcoming change in the internet landscape. No one knows exactly how is it going to look.
But, we have looked at the list of every name domain string that has been applied for, and one thing I know for sure is that there is not a single domain extension that even comes close to the perfection of .CO. Everyone around the world recognizes domain.CO as a company. It’s already used in a lot of different domain extensions around the world already, like .co.uk, .co.jp etc. You don’t have to define, explain or educate people about what it means. That’s the first thing.
Second, In the age of social media we live in, CO is a prefix for communicate, collaborate, connect etc., so it has a very rich social media meaning.
Third, .CO is shorter than all other domain extensions. A lot of the new ones will be 3 characters long and some even longer but none of them will be 2 characters. So .CO is shorter, memorable and meaningful.
But the one most important thing that I think would help us stand out and be ahead of the pack is that we have a 3 year head start, in which we have been able to demonstrate that we are building a community and are vested in the success of people building on .CO.
And lastly, I’ve to say that our team is really excited about new gTLDs coming in the market. The reason being that until now everybody thinks of the domain arena as a .com world and that nothing is legitimate unless its on .com.
So when they suddenly start seeing billboards for cars like .bmw and sneakers like .nike, they’ll realize that everything isn’t .com after all and that they can choose to go for other extensions as well.
Q: You mentioned how .CO is more recognizable than the new gTLDs coming out and that it is going to benefit from the 3 year head start it has. Isn’t this picture somewhat same to the one in 2009 when .CO launched, as in .com then had a head start of 27 years, was more renowned and people didn’t know about .CO?
A: That’s exactly right. It was not easy in the beginning. There were a lot of loud naysayers up front that said things like ‘oh! It would never work’, ‘no one needs another domain extension’, ‘.info and other TLDs have failed and this is going to be another one’, ‘it’s just a typo of .com and it’s going to confuse everybody’ etc.
All of this was hard to cope up with but we decided to block all the naysayers out and prove everybody wrong. We had a really big vision and a clear goal that we’d never allow .CO to be construed as a typo of .com.
We worked very hard early on to find the right kind of companies that would use .CO and then to further showcase them to other people so that they would want to build on .CO. This helped us gain traction in the very beginning. We are still obviously tiny compared to .com, it has a 27 year head start and 100 million plus people using it, but I think we are probably the first domain that .com has paid attention to.
Q: Any specific measures you’re taking in the wake of the new gTLD wave?
A: I wouldn’t say that there will be a significant change in the measures we take. We’ve always been focused on not just selling domain names but on building value for .CO users too, and we’re going to continue to do that.
We plan to double down on our community and being a value and up service to them, so that people don’t think of .CO as just another name in the dropdown list. We want to be the one and only name that people would consider building their businesses on.
We also have an internal think-lab where we try to come up with innovative products and services that would support our members. This year we launched our membership program which we discussed earlier. We are also the only registry to have an affiliate program.
Q: What is the rationale behind .CO having a higher registration fee than some other TLDs?
A: That’s a good question and I think you will understand and appreciate the answer as a person in this industry.
When we launched our company 3 years back, we looked at the landscape and tried to analyse the steps taken by other registries in the past, as in which ones of them had worked and which ones didn’t. One of the things we noticed was that in some of the better registries, a lot of the good domain names were sat on by people squatting, not using the name, but just having parked pages on them.
So we thought that we could either price .CO at 7 or 8 dollars like the rest of the domain extensions, generate the maximum amount of sales with people who’d buy hundreds or maybe even thousands of them early on just to hoard them and not to build anything on them, or, we could charge a relatively higher wholesale price (around 20$ on average) to disincentivize people from buying names in mass quantities and hoarding them.
We want people to think long and hard if they plan to buy more than 5 or 10 domains. Since .CO costs more, they can’t buy hundreds of them and then just sit on them.
However, that’s not to say that we’ve anything against people reselling them. We’re capitalists too and we think that it’s fine for people to resell, but we also know that the fastest way to kill the excitement of a great space would be to have nothing on it but parked pages.
Q: That’s a good point, but if you look at it from a different perspective, doesn’t the high price of .CO deter the 63% of the business owners bracket that doesn’t pay attention to the TLDs from choosing it over .com?
A: Yes, definitely. I wish I had a better answer for this as we don’t want to lose these customers because they’re really building something but we do miss out on them
I wish we could capture them all but it’s sort of a trade-off that we decided to make early on. As I said, it’s not about the short term money, but the long term development of .CO space.
Right now, we’re trying to educate people about the kind of value that we provide.
One of the things we have is the .CO scholarship program under which we give free .CO domains for a year every week to people who attend Startup weekends all around the world.
Wherever there are students getting together to start businesses in a structured way over a course of either weekends or a few days, we provide them with free .COs. We don’t want them to pay us anything, we’re just happy that they’re building on .CO because then they’ll stick around for 10 years as their company gets off the ground.
Also, the value of our membership program is much higher than that of a domain name. There are people who get tickets to 1000$ events for free just because they have a 25$ domain name.
So the example you gave me definitely falls through the cracks but I think that over time, as these customers start to learn that we offer them more than just a domain name, we’ll stop losing them.
Q: Tell our readers a bit about the team .CO?
A: Sure! We have an amazing team. At the core of every great company is a great leader and we have an amazing CEO in Juan Diego Calle.
He is a young man who is very wise beyond his years. His best skill as a leader is being able to identify the right people for the right role. He sets a really great vision and then gets out of the way. He is there when you need him but he doesn’t micro manage, he just inspires employees to do great things and then lets them do it.
There are four co-founders of the company. The whole concept for .CO was started by Juan himself and he pulled together a team of three others of us early on.
Our COO is a gentleman by the name of Nicolai Bezsonoff. Nicolai was working at Citi group earlier and had worked in various consulting firms before that. Juan had known him for long and thought that he would be a great COO. So he talked to him about the vision of .CO and inspired him to take risk on a startup and leave his job at the Citi group.
Eduardo Santoyo is our Corporate Vice president and he has a lot of experience running domain extensions. He used to run the domain extension for the country of Peru and he is currently the president of the Latin American and Caribbean Association of ccTLDs. He is very active in the ICANN policy making and makes sure that everything that we do at .CO is aligned with the best business practices.
And then there is me. I have a little bit of an odd background for the domain industry. I began my career as an attorney at Proskauer LLP and left to start a business of my own, which went under as a lot of sartups do, so then I had to start thinking about what I was going to do next.
I started having many ideas for businesses I could start and for every idea I would have, I would buy a domain name. So before I knew it I had a whole bunch of domain names but no business.
I was then contacted by someone who wanted to buy one of my domains and that’s when I realized that domain names have a value. So I started to study domain names and get to understand the marketplace and over time I got to know the industry very well.
Through the years, I had gotten introduced with Juan and when this opportunity came up, I couldn’t have been more excited . We all came together, won the bid and made .CO happen.
Since then we’ve grown and now have a small but an incredible team of 22 full time employees. We are passionate about what we do and think that every day when we wake up we sort of change the world a little bit.
Q: What are some significant changes that you expect to see in the domain industry in the coming years?
A: We already have a lot of new players that have never been in the domain space before but have now just flooded in. With Google and Amazon applying for around 100 and 70 new TLDs respectively, you know that there are going to be significant changes.
I think that companies that are starting new domain extensions are going to feel the need to offer more value than just a domain. There are also going to be a lot more new business models around domains in the coming years. For instance who knows what interesting business model .music might have around it or what interesting applications community domains like.nyc or .berlin might see.
But as of now, it’s anybody’s guess what that would look like. It only depends on how creative people are in choosing their new extensions and I think that it’s really exciting that there are going to be a whole lot of new opportunities that weren’t there before.
Q: Wrapping up, do you have any plans in the pipeline for Q3 and Q4 of 2013?
A: Yes, we do. We’ve got our 3rd anniversary coming up in July so we’re gearing up to do major look back on the past 3 years. We also have an upcoming product launch in the next couple of months.
We plan to keep pushing the industry forward by doing unexpected things and to inspire the world to go .CO.