WASHINGTON - Citing recent instances in which customers logged on to counterfeit Web sites and unwittingly divulged confidential account information, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Wednesday urged national banks to aggressively defend their Internet domain names against so-called cybersquatters.

In cases "where the risk of confusion is unacceptably high," the agency even encouraged banks to trademark their domain names and take legal action against the owners of similar ones under the 1999 Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

In addition to suing cybersquatters, the OCC advised banks to acquire - if possible - closely related names themselves and to mount advertising campaigns aimed at ensuring that depositors know the correct Web address. The agency also counseled banks to establish secure lines of communication with domain name registration authorities to prevent unauthorized changes that could cause the loss of a bank's online identity or the misdirection of its customer communications.

The OCC alert was part of an effort to raise awareness of technology issues at banks, said Clifford A. Wilke, director of the agency's bank technology division.

"This was not a proscriptive plan of action," said Mr. Wilke, who drafted the alert. "We wanted to direct attention to an important topic and let banks know there are a number of steps they can take" to protect their Web sites.

He said banks must "carefully select and protect their Internet addresses," likening this to "checking the locks on their vaults."


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