By Daniel Hunter

With hundreds of new generic top-level domains (gTLD) arriving on the internet — like .shop, .bank and .london — research has revealed that 87% of consumers do not feel very comfortable visiting them.

The New Internet Study by global information assurance firm NCC Group questioned 10,000 consumers across the US and UK regarding their attitudes to these new gTLDs.

With more domains going live, 40% of web users also reported feeling less secure online since their introduction. Data from NCC Group’s Domain Abuse Monitoring service backs up this consumer concern, with 50 of the new gTLDs being used to launch phishing emails in the last ten months alone.

Rob Cotton, CEO at NCC Group, said: “The internet is undergoing the biggest change in its history, causing uncertainty for consumers. We’ve also shown that the new domains are already being used for nefarious purposes, with users expressing security concerns too.

“Currently there is a lack of awareness of this change in the business community. This is an issue that affects a number of different departments, from marketing and IT all the way up to the board — but most firms are oblivious.

“Businesses cannot afford to do nothing here. The new gTLDs offer a wealth of possibilities for cyber criminals to attack an organisation’s online presence. Brand reputation, customer trust and ultimately revenue are all at risk.

“Companies are at a crossroads. A defensive strategy of buying up brand related domains might have been a simple task when there was only 22 gTLDs, but is it feasible when there are over a thousand? Purchasing your own brand gTLD would allow you to carve out your own space on the Internet, but would you have the back-end systems to support it and the initial capital to invest?

“Organisations need to make a decision and quickly. Doing nothing is not a solution.”

Other findings include:

· 45% of those we surveyed said they would feel safer on sites with new gTLDs if companies were clear about the steps being taken to protect users’ personal information

· UK respondents are more comfortable visiting sites with new domains than their US counterparts (UK: 14% US: 12%)

· US consumers are more likely to feel less secure as a result of the changes to gTLDs than their UK peers (UK: 39% US: 46%)

· Baby boomers (those born in 1964 or earlier) are less at ease with the ‘new Internet’ than Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1979) and Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996).