In early September the Imaging Supplies Coalition (ISC) held their 16th International Conference which focuses on Fraud and Counterfeiting in the Imaging Supplies Industry. This year’s theme was “An Industry in Transition” and unlike previous years the internet and the rapid growth of counterfeiting was front and center. Topics that were covered included “What is the Dark Web”, “Brand Protection on the Dark Web, “Brand Protection on Social Media” and a panel discussion that focused on Online Brand Protection and Enforcement.
With 2016 B2C e-commerce sales expected to reach 1.92 trillion USD and over 2 billion people worldwide expected to buy goods and services online, it’s no surprise that members of the ISC are continuously seeing an upward tick of grey market and counterfeit products being sold online. In the past, companies have focused their efforts on online marketplaces and websites, but in the last few years, a growing concern over products being sold on the “Dark Web” has emerged.
You may be asking what is the “Dark Web”? The Internet can be divided into 3 groups: Surface Web, Deep Web and Dark Web.
The Surface Web is everything you can access via Google (or other standard search engines) and makes up 4% of WWW content.
The Deep Web is everything not indexed by regular search engines (all non-surface web) and makes up 96% of WWW content. Here is where content like Medical Records, Legal Documents, Subscription Information, Financial Records and Organization-Specific Repositories are housed.
The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web that can’t be accessed with a standard browser and represents 6% of the Deep Web. The Dark Web is where a lot of illegal activity can be found since both visitors and publishers are entirely anonymous. Some of the most popular items sold on the underground marketplaces are drugs, both illicit and prescription pharmaceuticals. Credit card, identity theft, and personal account information can be bought. And of course, counterfeit goods are sold openly. If you can think of something illegal, it is most likely available on the dark web.
Several ISC attendees asked if monitoring the Dark Web should be included in their online brand protection strategy and unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to that. Due to anonymity, online enforcement on the dark net is very difficult. However, just as brand owners need to protect their intellectual property on the “surface web”, it is just as important to understand the risk to the brand on the hidden areas of the internet and enforce where possible.
The Imaging Supplies Industry has taken a proactive approach in collaborating and sharing ideas on how to best protect their brands from counterfeits and diversion, including in evolving areas such as the Dark Web. Likewise, law enforcement, regulators and security organizations like OpSec are working around the clock to find new ways to halt criminals who used the Deep Web for illicit purposes.