Intellectual property owners must constantly monitor both the online and offline worlds in order to protect their IP rights. But the biggest threat is often found in a mysterious, hidden world in the ether – the Deep Web.
The Deep Web accounts for an astonishing 96% of the Internet. This is the part of the online world that the major search engines don’t index. The relative anonymity provided by the Deep Web has attracted fraudsters and cybersquatters in their millions over the years. And one of the biggest crimes perpetrated in the hidden portion of the Internet iceberg is IP fraud.
But an even bigger threat faces brand and IP owners. Darknets exist within the Deep Web, and they give users complete anonymity. These closed communities can only be accessed by specialist software programs, and they provide the cover needed for fraudsters, counterfeiters and a vast array of criminals to make money illegally.
What can be found in the Deep Web?
The latest estimates suggest that the Deep Web is around 500 times larger than the widely indexed Surface Web. A great many of the websites in this underbelly of the Internet are there for wholly legitimate reasons. For instance, global corporations have the bulk of their internet systems behind a firewall in the Deep Web. The bulk of content on social media sites is located here, and massive information databases operated by governments – including patent and trademark libraries – are stored in the Deep Web too.
But IP lawyers aren’t concerned with the legitimate parts of this mysterious online world; they’re concerned with issues such as the selling of counterfeit goods, the misuse of branding and piracy.
What can be found in darknets?
Darknets offer complete anonymity to all users. To access a darknet, the user will need a specific browser, such as Tor, Tails or I2P. Some darknets are accessible by invitation only – although it’s usually quite easy to secure one. The location, IP address and online activity of darknet users are all kept completely private, which is why many people use them to buy drugs, weapons, explicit images and pirated content. In effect, they are huge, largely hidden marketplaces, which makes them extremely problematic for intellectual property rights owners.
Virtual currencies make IP protection even more difficult
The trade in counterfeit goods and services is usually conducted with a so-called cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin or Dash. Bitcoin is currently the most trusted option. This sophisticated virtual currency uses peer-to-peer technology, and it isn’t controlled by a government or central banking institution. This allows for direct transactions to take place without any involvement from financial bodies or governmental organisations. It also means there are no official records of purchases and sales ever taking place.
The obvious benefit involved in trading with Bitcoin is the anonymity it provides. No audit trail is left behind. Governments can’t regulate Bitcoin, and law enforcement bodies are unable to follow a money trail in the way they do with investigations into conventional fraud and theft.
Brand owners are now finding it harder than ever to protect their intellectual property with this level of anonymity widely accessible to the criminal fraternity. But by utilising an IP portfolio management tool such as IPzen Enforcement, IP lawyers and brand owners can be proactive when it comes to protecting their intellectual property in the Deep Web.
What are the risks to IP owners?
Criminals are using the Deep Web and darknets to abuse and steal intellectual property in a range of ways, including:
- Creating websites that are extremely close matches
- Creating search engine ads that direct users to Deep Web sites
- Sending phishing emails in order to send users to Deep Web sites
- Creating mobile apps that redirect users to Deep Web sites
Phishing is also a major problem that is currently causing brand owners a major headache. Logos, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property are used in order to fool people into providing confidential information about themselves. This information is then used to steal money and identities.
What can be done to stop IP abuse in the Deep Web?
There are tools that allow brand owners and IP lawyers to identify and stop the abuse and theft of intellectual property rights in the Deep Web. From removing the privacy created by proxy services to combatting the problem of phishing, IPzen Enforcement can help brand owners and lawyers to protect their interests.
The issue of cybersquatting is widespread in the Deep Web. IPzen Enforcement can initiate a ‘Procedure for Generic Top Level Domains’ (called UDRP procedure) and recover or cancel offending domain names. There is also a facility to issue takedown notices to Internet providers.
Unfortunately, policing darknets is significantly more difficult. The anonymity provided by these online communities makes investigation and enforcement extremely difficult. But there are ways to monitor illegal activity and protect IP rights in this murky world of hidden online activity. For instance, many wrongdoers take to discussion boards and forums on darknets to seek advice and drum up business. Brand owners and IP lawyers can use these online discussions to infiltrate criminal networks by posing as criminals. Indeed, this tactic has been successful in bringing down sophisticated criminal gangs dealing in illegal images, stolen credit card details and counterfeit goods.
But armed with effective monitoring tools, brand owners and IP lawyers can use test-buyers to root out wrongdoers and shut down their illegal activities.
Protecting IP rights in the Deep Web with new IP management software
IPzen Enforcement is IP management software that automates many of the processes lawyers and brand owners execute to protect their intellectual property. This powerful tool advises on the best protection strategies, and assists in the enforcement of IP rights – which are fundamental to an organisation’s online identity.
Among the many services offered by IPzen Enforcement are domain takedowns, Alternative Disputes Resolution, phishing protection, domain name recovery and domain name acquisition. See IPzen Enforcement in action for yourself by requesting an online WebEx demonstration of this powerful, cloud-based IP protection system.