Combat Counterfeiters With Hidden Online Data
Counterfeiting may have once catered to consumer temptation — a way to access and flaunt expensive brands at a fraction of the price. However, the proliferation of e-commerce has also translated to the counterfeiting industry: not only has it grown, but an increased number of consumers are unintentionally purchasing fake items.
Counterfeiters are leveraging online networks, including social platforms and the dark web, to plan and deliver their activities. These sources offer critical context to retail loss prevention (LP) teams and anti-counterfeiting organizations, but they require specialized tools to search safely and efficiently.
How are retailers accessing and leveraging this information to combat counterfeiting?
Counterfeiting Becoming More Sophisticated
Counterfeiting now accounts for 3.3 percent of global trade and is a nearly $400 billion industry in China alone. This growth has an enormous impact on a retailer’s revenue, reputation, and even job loss.
Counterfeiting strategies are also becoming smarter. Adversaries can use advanced tools and techniques, such as typosquatting and DNS mischief, to covertly redirect consumers from online stores to counterfeit sites. They’re using scattered servers and global networks to carry out these activities and distribute products.
Online marketplaces and discussions, particularly on the dark web, enable counterfeiters to host discussions and sell products anonymously from anywhere in the world.
These strategies make it increasingly difficult for retailers to identify counterfeiters and stay informed — and way easier for counterfeiters to succeed.
The Future of Finding Counterfeits
To keep up, brands and online retailers are investing more in advanced technologies that can help them detect, prevent and shut down counterfeiters.
Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology are helping retailers identify and track products throughout their life cycle. Amazon.com's Project Zero uses machine learning to detect counterfeit product listings or vendors and empower brands to remove them.
Specialized search software is also enabling retailers to quickly and safely locate counterfeit products and vendors on hidden online networks, such as the dark and deep web. These networks aren’t navigable using conventional search engines like Google. In fact, they’re extremely challenging and time consuming (and in the case of the dark web, dangerous) to navigate for relevant counterfeiting activity.
Search tools allow retailers, LP teams and law enforcement to discover:
- counterfeit distributors on dark web marketplaces;
- counterfeiting strategy discussions on the dark web;
- listings on unindexed marketplaces like Craigslist, Kijiji, and OpenBazaar indicating a counterfeit vendor, or warnings from counterfeiting victims; and
- social media activity indicating counterfeit distribution or customer complaints.
Identify Counterfeiters From the Source and Stay Better Informed
What can retailers actually do with access to this information?
Counterfeit activity on the dark web tends to happen early on in the supply chain between illicit vendors rather than directly to consumers. This is where shutdowns have a bigger global impact on counterfeit distribution.
Finding this activity early on is integral to anti-counterfeiting investigators and initiatives like the Alibaba Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance (AACA), which partners with over 450 brands and law enforcement groups to monitor and shut down counterfeiters.
Counterfeiting strategy discussions also keep retailers up-to-date on current counterfeiting techniques so they can better detect items and inform customers and employees. Easy access to listings across open marketplaces like Craigslist, as well as public social media data, also keeps retailers informed about counterfeit activities on a localized level.
Retailers are rapidly leveraging the online world, whether it’s to improve communications, supply chains or global consumer access. The counterfeiting industry is no different.
Advanced search software is one of several emerging technologies, from blockchain to machine learning, advancing the industry’s ability to find and stay ahead of counterfeiters. Investing in these tools will become integral to retailers’ security processes of the future — their customers and global reputation simply depend on it.
Alex Ciarniello is the written content manager at Echosec Systems, a leader in online information discovery and data gathering.
Related story: Putting Counterfeiters Out of Business, Part 2
Alex Ciarniello is the written content manager at Echosec Systems, a leader in online information discovery and data gathering. As an experienced technical writer and OSINT researcher, Alex supports the organization by developing a variety of public and internal content, including blogs, case studies, shareholder updates, press releases, ads, website copy, and marketing materials.