The company that oversees Web addresses ending in .org said on Wednesday it was introducing extra security measures to guard against identity theft.
.Org, which is monitored by the Washington-based Public Interest Registry, is the first generic domain name system (DNS) to adopt the extra measures, but others, such as .com and .net, are expected to follow.
In the United States alone identity theft is estimated to have risen 37 percent to affect 11 million people last year, at a total cost of $54 billion, according to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy and Research.
Eight million websites use the .org suffix, which is one of the Internet's original domain names, established in 1985.
.Org is frequently used by nonprofit groups and hosts many credit unions' online banking services, making it a target for fraudsters who want to tap into bank accounts or donations being made online to charities and other organizations.
More than $1 billion is now being donated electronically each year in the United States, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, with the figure growing by nearly 40 percent between 2005 and 2006.
The new DNS security measures will authenticate the origin of data on .org websites, ensuring its integrity, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said during a week-long meeting in Brussels.
In very simple terms, DNS (security measures) allow Internet users to know with certainty they have reached the website or location they intended to, said Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of ICANN, which oversees the Internet on behalf of the U.S. government.
In effect, the measures introduce a key to validate data, ensuring it has not been tampered with in transit.
Such security measures are already used by web addresses with the national suffixes for Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Puerto Rico and Sweden.
Internet domain registrars Comcast and Go Daddy, which sell web addresses, have already agreed to implement the measures, which other registrars are expected to adopt, the chief executive of Public Interest Registry, Alexa Raad, said.
Ordinary Web surfers will not notice any change when accessing .org websites. Websites ending in .com and .net are expected to adopt the extra DNS security measures by the first quarter of 2011.
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)