New research suggests that companies behind some of America’s best known consumer brands may be far more effective at fighting cybercrime than any efforts to enact more stringent computer security and anti-piracy laws.
Recent legislative proposals in the United States — such as the Stop Online Piracy Act — have sought to combat online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods by granting Internet service providers and authorities broader powers to prosecute offenders, and by imposing stronger criminal penalties for such activity. But recent data collected by academic researchers suggests that brand holders already have the tools to quash much of this activity.
Over the past two years, a team of academic researchers made hundreds of “test buys” at Web sites from 40 different shady businesses peddling knock-off prescription drugs, counterfeit software and fake anti-virus products. The researchers, from George Mason University, the International Computer Science Institute, and the University of California, San Diego, posed as buyers for these products, which tend to be promoted primarily via hacked Web sites, junk email and computer viruses.
The test buys were intended to reveal relationships between the shadowy merchants and the banks that process credit and debit card transactions for these businesses. Following the money trail showed that a majority of the purchases were processed by just 12 banks in a handful of countries, including Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Latvia, and Mauritius.
The researchers said they submitted the test buy results to a database run by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, (IACC), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization devoted to combating product counterfeiting and piracy. Several pharmacy and software vendors and IACC members whose trademarks were infringed in those transactions (the researchers said non-disclosure agreements prohibit them from naming the brands) used the data to lodge complaints with Visa (only Visa-branded debit cards were used to make the test buys) — via redwolf.newsvine.com