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‘Tis the Season – to Counterfeit?

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The sales of counterfeit products are expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2020. While counterfeit products remains a huge year-round problem for retailers, the holiday season increases the likelihood that consumers will encounter and buy fake goods online.

Just as this season's Black Friday sales have begun, a new survey conducted by the non-profit The Toy Association found that 1 in 3 parents are not aware that counterfeit toys are sold online – putting their children at a possible safety risk. Approximately 70 percent of American parents are planning to do half or more of their holiday toy shopping online this year.

Luxury brands remain a prime target for online counterfeiters. In 2017, Farsight Security and DomainTools published a research report entitled “Luxury Brands, Cheap Domains: Why Retailers Are Losing The Fight Against Online Counterfeiting" that took a close look at four international luxury brand domains – Burberry, Cartier, Gucci, and Prada – and found that the potential abuse of their brand, by counterfeiting and other malicious activities, was significant.

Brands are using different ways to fight back against counterfeiting. Earlier this week Christian Dior filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the operators of a number of online websites, which allegedly sell counterfeit products.

In addition to fighting back in court, some luxury brands are embracing new technology to reduce counterfeiting. On November 1, 2019, Ralph Lauren launched Digital Product Identities (IDs) for tens of millions of Ralph Lauren products, starting with the Polo brand, to help consumers to confirm whether their purchase is authentically Ralph Lauren.

One of the first steps to protecting the digital assets of your brand is understanding the numerous ways that Domain Name System (DNS) abuse can play in online counterfeiting. These include:

  • Brand Infringement: Unauthorized use of a brand or trademark as part of a domain name
  • Brand Dilution: Brands, if not protected and reserved for use by the brand-holder, are at risk of becoming generic references to a class of goods rather than a specific reference to a particular company’s product. This has happened to some photocopier brands, for example, or to some over-the-counter drug brands.
  • Brand Diminishment: Brands, used without permission to mislabel inferior knock-off products, diminish the prestige and perception of quality that the brand owner has worked hard to establish for their authentic goods.
  • Brandjacking: A common example is using brand names in a web page’s keywords, even if the keywords have nothing to do with what is actually on that page
  • Brand Typosquatting: Registration of a “typo domain” that is lexically similar to an entity’s brand with the intention of launching an attack listed above
  • Phishing: Lookalike malicious domains used to create websites or emails to lure unsuspecting users for fraud and other cybercrimes

No single technology, policy or educational awareness program can fight online counterfeiting – it requires a security-in-depth approach. To learn more how Farsight DNS intelligence can help secure your network and protect your brand, contact us at 650-489-7919.

Karen Burke is the Director of Corporate Communications for Farsight Security, Inc.

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