Online counterfeiting – Part 1

Most of my work is in the cybersecurity field but I have been recently brought into more and more projects involving online counterfeiting

What is online counterfeiting?

Almost anything can be counterfeited and the internet provides a great way for the counterfeiters to get a global market. Online selling has been incredibly successful for a number of legitimate companies so it will come as no surprise this is the same for counterfeiters

Mostly you hear about the high end luxury brands having the biggest problems, but there are in fact there are many more lucrative markets such as medicines and chemical products which could potentially harm human health.

How big a problem is it ?

It will come as no great surprise that counterfeiting is a vast, successful and global business which increasingly operates online.

An April 2016 report issued by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the EU Intellectual Property Office estimates in 2013 the value of counterfeited goods rose to $461 billion, or 2.5% of the value of global trade.

How do online counterfeiters operate ?

The main online counterfeiting industry business model is to set up fake sites usually on free hosting platforms (see for a list

If a brand owner asks for a takedown then it is very easy (and cost effective !) to set up a brand new fake site again.

I have noticed a number of counterfeiters use Ecommerce platforms such as ebay and Amazon to sell fake branded chemical products to consumers (e.g rodent, insect killer ) and in fact Apple claimed that 90 percent of genuine Apple products sold on e-commerce giant Amazon are counterfeit – leading them to sue Amazon supplier Mobile Star in October 2016

in a couple of projects the counterfeiters had compromised the online adverts delivery system to drive traffic away from the legitimate branded sites to the fake site and had quickly picked up expiring brand domains which the company had let expire

 A big change I have seen however is the move away from the sites concept above and to facilitate sales through social media, instant messaging tools (Telegram, Whatsapp and WeChat). In fact this blog receives a number of comments advertising suspected counterfetiting sites ( all blocked thanks to the antispam tools !! )


Next post will look at what can a company do about monitoring for counterfeiting of their products


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