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Montecito Bank & Trust Website Switches to Secure .bank Domain

Visitors to Montecito Bank & Trust’s website may have noticed the community bank has switched its domain from .com to .bank — a change officials started a year ago to improve online banking security.

Montecito Bank & Trust is the first Santa Barbara area bank to make the shift, not to mention being among the first globally to embrace the extension meant to reduce the likelihood of a potential security attack or internet scam.

The www.montecito.bank domain is supposed to incorporate the latest security requirements, but the FDIC, the federal agency regulating banks, does not require it.

At least not yet, said Paul Abramson, Montecito Bank & Trust’s senior vice president and director of technology.

One of the main issues, he said, is that anyone can register an available .com web address, and banks had no way to control a person who owned an address with similar words or phrases — something that could mislead customers and put banks at risk.

Only verified banks, credit unions and other qualifying financial institutions can register a .bank domain, and many of them started to earlier this year, according to fTLD Registry Services, a group owned, operated and governed by banks, insurance companies and their trade associations.

As of Nov. 30, some 5,165 .bank domain names were registered in the U.S. by 2,534 banks, the group said. Outside the U.S., 560 domain names have been registered.

Abramson heard about the .bank domain a year ago and decided to ensure the Montecito bank had all the technology in place to prevent spoofing of emails or cyber hackers tampering with them in transit.

He said the Montecito Bank & Trust website has never been hacked before.

Online attacks typically target larger banks like Bank of America or Chase, he said, but even Montecito Bank & Trust customers have received the popular email spam that claims to be from a relative or someone they know seeking a wire transfer of funds.

Spam emails could contain links with computer viruses or direct customers to sites that resemble that of their bank as an attempt to steal account information.

“It became clear that it’s less of a marketing thing and more of they were actually trying to build something more trustworthy than the .coms, the .nets,” Abramson said.

“A lot of people will see the value in it. Hopefully if more institutions like ours get on board … it will become a trend. The benefit to the customer is pretty great. The URLs these (hacker) guys are crafting look pretty legitimate.”

To obtain the domain, Montecito Bank & Trust had to go through a number of protocols, including implementing the Domain Name System Security Extensions, essentially being able to verify that an IP address returned by the server is the correct site owner, he said.

Bank officials say this is an early step in a larger commitment to making technology improvements to the website and mobile app for business and personal customers.

“The .bank move is an important one for us as we continue to invest the resources necessary to provide the highest level of customer security and protection against fraud,” Montecito Bank & Trust President and CEO Janet Garufis said in a statement.

“Having the .bank domain extension conveys to customers that our website is a secure, trusted place to conduct business, and that our institution has taken steps towards reducing potential internet scams and malicious emails. We will continue to explore ways to incorporate technology and innovation to provide our local communities with a world class banking experience.”

Abramson said Montecito Bank & Trust email addresses switched over last weekend and that the online bank system would also eventually be switched over to .bank instead of the current www.montecito.com.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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