Firms are being advised to register the .xxx extension of their domain in a bid to protect their reputation.

According to domain registrar 123.reg, if a domain expires and a company is not alerted to re-register it in time, they may see the adult industry snapping up these domains and subsequently re-routing traffic to adult sites, leaving many web users searching for information of a legitimate company, shocked by graphic content and possibly even in danger from malicious website that will infect a user's PC with malware.

The National Asbestos Training and Accreditation Scheme (NATAS) is one such organisation that has already experienced this.

Max Lopacki, managing director asbestos awareness training, surveying and testing firm, owned and purchased the domain www.natas.com but unfortunately it expired and the registrar did not alert to the need to re-register to domain. As a result it was purchased by an adult entertainment firm which saw web users accessing NATAS' website rerouted to a graphic adult site.

"It was not only a very disruptive experience but a costly one too, said Lopacki, who has now purchased www.natas.xxx in a bid to "to protect the NATAS brand".

"Most business people might not see the clear correlation between the release of an 'adult-specific' domain extension and the potential brand threat, but unfortunately at NATAS we learnt the hard way."

Thomas Vollrath, CEO of 123-reg, advised firms to "think seriously about the impact, not registering [the .xxx domain], could have."

On September 7, the Sunrise period for the domain opened. This means any trademarked company or existing domain in the adult industry can apply for their .xxx domain first. This will run until October 28. If more than one firm applies for domain, an external auction will be used to decide the outcome.

Landrush, which will see non-trademarked brands or firms being able to apply for domains, runs between November 8 and 25. The domains will go live on December 6