Sites get ICEd in transatlantic assault on cyber crooks

by Hogan Lovells
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As part of a sustained and coordinated effort, law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have rounded off their on-going fight against cybercrime known as “Operation In Our Sites” with the traditional annual flourish on “Cyber Monday”.  In the U.S., and increasingly elsewhere, the Monday following “Black Friday” (the first Friday after Thanksgiving), which sees an avalanche of discounted consumer goods unleashed onto the public via the Internet, is known as Cyber Monday.  Hence, the day’s special resonance with the fight against cybercrime and counterfeiting.

Operation In Our Sites is a continuing effort to detect and combat intellectual property violations on the Internet – notably counterfeiting – commenced in 2014 by the U.S. government’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC), a body managed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit.  This year, in a joint initiative between (ICE), Europol, Interpol and industry members called “In Our Sites / Project Transatlantic VIII”, around 50,385 illegal domain names were seized and 320,701 e-commerce / social media links removed across the globe.

In the U.S., once seized, domain names associated with counterfeiting and fraudulent websites are redirected to the NIPRCC’s seizure banner which, the organisation asserts, “serves as a tool in educating the public about the perils of counterfeit items available on the Internet.”

Speaking about the importance of the operation, acting NIPRCC Director Nick Annan stated that: “Targeting copyright-infringing websites that market dangerous counterfeit goods to consumers and engage in other forms of intellectual property theft will continue to be a priority for law enforcement” going on to add that: “Strengthening our collaboration with police authorities around the world and leaders of industry will reinforce the crackdown on IP crimes, and demonstrate that there is no safe haven for criminals committing these illicit activities.”

On this side of the Atlantic, as part of the joint effort, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation’s (Europol) Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³) seized more than 20,520 domain names that were selling counterfeit goods, a substantial increase on the 7,776 domain names seized over the first three years of the operation.  Europol put this down to “a global operation that saw a big range of anti-counterfeiting associations and brand owner representatives joining law enforcement authorities, facilitating international cooperation.
Law enforcement agencies from Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, France, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom were all involved in this year’s actions.  Additionally, for the first time in the operation’s history, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) participated via eight of its member countries (Argentina, Chile, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Panama, Peru, South Korea and Thailand).

With regard to the increased volume of domain name seizures made in 2017, Rob Wainright, the executive director of Europol, emphasised that: “This excellent result shows how important and effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities and private-sector partners is, and how vital it is if we are to ultimately make the internet a safer place for consumers.

With reference to the ever growing web of international cooperation involved in Operation In Our Sites, NIPRCC Director, Nick Annan, asserted that: “Strengthening our collaboration with police authorities around the world and leaders of industry will reinforce the crackdown on IP crimes, and demonstrate that there is no safe haven for criminals committing these illicit activities.”

As part of the European anti-counterfeiting action, Europol’s IPC³ also recently launched an awareness campaign called Don’t F***(ake) Up, which aims to educate the public about the risks of online counterfeiting and fraudulent sites and to teach them how to recognise and avoid them.  A video about the risks of ordering counterfeit medicines online has also been released as part of this campaign.  On its website, Europol states of the trade in counterfeit medicines: “This phenomenon knows no limits – in the best case scenario, fake medicines leave patients with no ill effects but also with no cure and in many other cases, they could even be life threatening.”

It will be interesting to see if the large increase in seized websites over this last year is replicated in years to come.  One thing is for sure, that with cybercrime burgeoning, there is certainly no end of targets.


First published on Anchovy News: Anchovy® is our comprehensive and centralised online brand protection service for global domain name strategy, including new gTLDs together with portfolio management and global enforcement using a unique and exclusive online platform developed in-house.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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