Europol busts over 33,000 Internet domains selling counterfeit goods

Continuing its crackdown on the use of the Internet by cyber criminals and fraudsters to sell counterfeit and pirated items to gullible customers, Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) seized 33,654 fraudulent domains associated with such operations and arrested twelve suspected cyber criminals.

The Internet domains seized by the multi-national coalition headed by Europol this year were found selling counterfeit and pirated items such as pharmaceuticals, pirated films, television shows, music, software, electronics and other bogus products.

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The number of domains seized by the coalition is much larger than the number of domains the coalition seized last year (20,520), thereby signalling much-improved detection and response capabilities of law enforcement agencies across 26 countries.

"Operation In Our Sites (IOS) is a continuation of a recurrent joint global operation, which was launched in 2014 and has since significantly increased. The ninth edition of this worldwide operation in 2018 saw an even larger range of anti-counterfeiting associations, brand owner representatives and law enforcement authorities taking part to facilitate international cooperation and support the countries involved in this initiative.

"This is a result of Europol’s comprehensive approach to make the internet a safer place for consumers by encouraging more countries and private-sector partners to participate in this operation and provide referrals," Europol said in a press release published earlier today.

Europol focussing on consumer awareness

With the pre-Christmas shopping season kicking in and millions of shoppers across Europe visiting thousands of domains to find the best deals and discount offerings, various online security experts had already warned shoppers to urge caution and check websites for authenticity before making purchases or filling in their personal or financial details in online forms.

"The pure eagerness for people to bag the best deals on Black Friday is a huge threat as people may neglect basic security hygiene in a rush to smash through their loved ones' Christmas lists. Keen shoppers need to realise that 'easy' doesn't necessarily equate to 'safe', so having non-essential websites store their passwords or credit card details or using the same password across all online stores is ill-advised," said Todd Peterson, IAM specialist at One Identity.

To improve consumer awareness of fraudulent activies on the Internet, Europol recently launched a campaign named “Don’t F***(ake) Up”. As part of the campaign, the organisation informs citizens of the risks of buying fake products online and provides forthright advice to help identify illicit websites that sell counterfeit goods, as well as other means used by counterfeiters, such as fake social media accounts and fake apps.

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