Why is a multilingual internet a threat to brands?
Today, over 60% of website on the internet are in English, but only 20% of the world population can converse in English. This leaves a large population who can and do access the internet, undeserved and underrepresented.
What is an IDN?
In order to make the internet more accessible to the world population, and cater to the next billion people who will access the internet, ICANN (the governing body of the internet) launched a program to make the internet accessible in regional and local languages, resulting in IDNs - Internationalized Domain Name.
To put it simply, IDNs are domain names that use non-latin alphabets.
For examples : IDN alternative to the domain India(.)com can be
इंडिया.com (Hindi) (registered)
ইন্ডিয়া.com (Bengali) (available)
ઇન્ડિયા.com (Gujarati) (available)
As of Aug 2020, 636 generic Top Level Domains (TLDs) (such as .com) support 1 or more IDNs. Some the popular TLDs with the largest number of IDN availability are :
.COM - 97 | .NET - 97 | .Name -103 | .कॉम - 97 | .नेट - 97
The maximum number of IDNs supported by a TLD as of Aug 2020 is 103 and there are 34 TLDs that support these IDNs.
While IDNs are a great boon for the internet, it brings a new set of challenges for the Brands in the form of Homoglyph Attacks.
Domain names can now be registered using scripts other than Latin and also a combination of scripts. This allows the registration of a domain names that are similar to a famous brand or service with only a few characters replaced by similar looking characters in another script.
As an example
Original domain - office365[.]com
Homoglyph attack domains - ọffice365[.]com, offĭce365[.]com, offìce365[.]com
Only the highlighted character is different in these domains, but very close to original alphabets and very confusing for the viewer.
Businesses and brands across the world are targets of Homoglyph attacks, specially those brands that operate in geographies where regional languages are widely used.
There are are many more IDN TLDs to come, further solidifying an urgent need for businesses to actively protect the brand and trademarks from threat actors in the online space.
IDN World Report
IDNs by NIXI
Universal Acceptance by ICANN
Wiki on IDN Homoglyph Attack