Brands, particularly global brands, are under attack from abuse online and this includes abuse through the domain name system. Security firms have conducted a study that looked at how unsuspecting consumers are lured to fake websites using domain names with the brand as part of the domain, to purchase counterfeit goods from cyber criminals.
 
The report, Luxury Brands, Cheap Domains: Why Retailers Are Losing The Fight Against Online Counterfeiting, notes that according to the International Trademark Association, $460 billion worth of counterfeit goods were bought and sold last year.
 
The study looked at four international luxury brand domains and learned that the potential abuse of their brand, by counterfeiting and other malicious activities, is significant. This abuse of a brand’s name can have a detrimental impact on their reputation through shoddy fake knockoff products, with consumers often not realising what they are buying is fake.
 
The study looked at domain name registrations in four categories: registering the brand name in top level domains not used by the brand, such as prada.tk and gucci.science, adding terms or affixes to the brand such as cheapcartier.com and prada-handbags.cn, combinations of affix and TLD and typos, the latter though not part of the study.
 
The study found that the threat to retailers was significant from those selling counterfeit goods among the four brands studied: Cartier, Burberry, Prada and Gucci. The research found a number of specific patterns:

  • Brand-holders don’t use Whois privacy, but imitators do.
  • Brand keywords see wide distributions across TLDs, but .com dominates representing half or more of the brand-infringing domain names.
  • Relatively low rates of malware, phishing, and spam.
  • Strong hints of counterfeiting with hundreds of domains using terms such as “cheap” and “fake,” as well as domains purporting to be retail outlets, but whose registration records showed no connection to the brand or any related operation.

While not all online outlets selling counterfeit goods use a brand name in their domain name, many do, and as this study shows, brands need to be vigilant lest their reputation can easily suffer.

If your brand is being targeted by cyber criminals, we can help. Lexsynergy's Brand Protection department has been managing intellectual property rights online for over 10 years and has taken down thousands of infringing websites. Contact us today for a free strategy session - brandprotection@lexsynergy.com