[news release] Tuesday, a coalition of law enforcement agencies across the world announced the results of a coordinated operation known as DisrupTor which targeted vendors and buyers of illicit goods on the dark web.
The police in Europe said Thursday they had arrested hundreds of people on suspicion of drug trafficking and other crimes after successfully hacking into an encrypted phone network being used by organized criminals around the world.
As part of an international operation, Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) seized 33,654 domain names distributing counterfeit and pirated items online. This takes the total to more than one million that have been seized in the past 12 months. Continue reading Over 33,000 Domain Names Seized Selling Counterfeit Goods in Latest Operation In Our Sites
Interpol led an international operation that included the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a number of other international regulatory and law enforcement agencies that targeted over 450 domain names and 465 websites that illegally sell potentially dangerous, unapproved versions of opioid, oncology and antiviral prescription drugs. The operation saw 3,671 web links closed down, including the websites, as well as social media pages and online marketplaces.
This effort was part of Operation Pangea XI, the eleventh annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA). This is a global cooperative effort, led by Interpol, to combat the unlawful sale and distribution of illegal and potentially counterfeit medical products sold on the internet.
âThe sale of potentially dangerous and counterfeit drugs by criminal networks on the internet is a large and growing threat to the public health. The illegal online pharmacies that weâre taking action against are often run by sophisticated criminal networks that knowingly and unlawfully distribute illicit drugs, including potentially counterfeit medicines and controlled substances both on the surface and dark web. Consumers go to these websites believing that theyâre buying safe and effective medications. But consumers are being put at risk by individuals who put financial gains above patient safety,â said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. âIâm particularly concerned about the ease with which consumers can gain access to controlled substances and prescription opioids online. This is one reason why weâve stepped up our efforts, both from a policy and enforcement standpoint, to take these bad actors down. Todayâs major operation by FDA, together with our international regulatory and law enforcement partners, demonstrates that weâll aggressively pursue those who place patients at risk and seek to profit from illegal products.â
The multi-pronged enforcement strategy under Operation Pangea XI was aimed at identifying the makers and distributors of illegal prescription drugs and removing these products and their sources from the supply chain.
As part of this operation, the FDAâs Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) special agents initiated several criminal investigations involving illegal online pharmacies. One recent investigation resulted in the recent arrest and indictment of a San Diego resident known as âThe Drug Llamaâ on a dark net marketplace. The suspect in this case is alleged to be responsible for shipping more than 50,000 tablets containing fentanyl throughout the United States using the dark net and other means.
INTERPOL coordinated the operation with support from the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (WGEO), Europol, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), as well as Twitter, Facebook and payment card companies as well as the FDA.
During Operation Pangea XI, the FDA sent warning letters to seven different networks that were operating a total of 465 websites offering misbranded and unapproved drugs to U.S. consumers. In addition, more than 450 domain names were brought to the attention of search engines and the appropriate domain name registries and registrars. These include domains such as nextdaypills.com, top-meds-discounts.com, and bestgenericstore.com. This yearâs Operation Pangea also took place at three of the nine international mail facilities (IMFs) in the U.S., as well as at other facilities around the world. During three and four-day screening sessions at Chicagoâs OâHare International Airport, New Yorkâs John F. Kennedy International Airport and in San Francisco, FDA investigators found products attempting to make their way into the country from places such as India, the United Kingdom, China and El Salvador. Of the 626 packages examined, 794 products were refused entry into the U.S. Sixty-two products were identified as being purchased from internet sites operating in the United Kingdom, Canada and India.
To target the infrastructure supporting the illegal online sales of drugs, a series of recent OCI cybercrime investigations focused on credit card processors involved in an arrangement known as âtransaction launderingâ or âfactoring.â Under this scheme, the business operations process payments for illegal online drug networks through shell companies such as clothing stores or florists that are seemingly not related to online pharmacies. The FDAâs investigation of these payment schemes led to a federal indictment charging a complex conspiracy related to transaction laundering for online pharmacies.
Another aspect of this yearâs operation is a continuation of an effort that started back in 2012. As part of Operation Pangea V conducted in 2012, the FDA sent warning letters to the Canada Drugs Online Pharmacy Network. After the network ignored these letters, OCI began an investigation that culminated in April 2018 when Kristjan Thorkelson, a resident of Manitoba, Canada, together with several Canadian companies associated with Thorkelson, including Canada Drugs, admitted to widespread illegal sales of misbranded and counterfeit prescription drugs in the United States. The Canadian companies were sentenced to forfeit $29 million of the proceeds of their illegal scheme, to pay a fine of $5 million, and to five years of probation. The court sentenced Thorkelson individually to pay a fine of $250,000 and to five years of probation with the first six months in home confinement. Thorkelson and the associated companies were also ordered to permanently cease their illegal operations, surrender to the U.S. thousands of domain names and websites from their businesses and to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FDA in ongoing and future criminal investigations conducted by the agencies.
The administrators of the DDoS marketplace webstresser.org were arrested on 24 April 2018 as a result of Operation Power Off, a complex investigation led by the Dutch Police and the UKâs National Crime Agency with the support of Europol and a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the world. The administrators were located in the United Kingdom, Croatia, Canada and Serbia. Further measures were taken against the top users of this marketplace in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Croatia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. The illegal service was shut down and its infrastructure seized in the Netherlands, the US and Germany.
Webstresser.org was considered the worldâs biggest marketplace to hire Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) services, with over 136,000 registered users and 4 million attacks measured by April 2018. The orchestrated attacks targeted critical online services offered by banks, government institutions and police forces, as well as victims in the gaming industry.
Devastation for hire
In a DDoS attack enabled by such a service, the attacker remotely controls connected devices to direct a large amount of traffic at a website or an online platform. Whether this traffic eats up the websiteâs bandwidth, overwhelms the server, or consumes other essential resources, the end result of an unmitigated DDoS attack is the same: the victim website is either slowed down past the point of usability, or itâs knocked completely offline, depriving users from essential online services.
It used to be that in order to launch a DDoS attack, one had to be pretty well versed in internet technology. That is no longer the case. With webstresser.org, any registered user could pay a nominal fee using online payment systems or cryptocurrencies to rent out the use of stressers and booters. Fees on offer were as low as EUR 15.00 a month, thus allowing individuals with little to no technical knowledge to launch crippling DDoS attacks.
International law enforcement cyber sweep
International police cooperation was central to the success of this investigation initiated by the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit and the UK National Crime Agency, as the administrators, users, critical infrastructure and victims were scattered across the world.
Europolâs European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) supported the investigation from the onset by facilitating the exchange of information between all partners. A command and coordination post was set up at Europolâs headquarters in The Hague on the action day.
“We have a trend where the sophistication of certain professional hackers to provide resources is allowing individuals â and not just experienced ones â to conduct DDoS attacks and other kind of malicious activities online”, said Steven Wilson, Head of Europolâs European Cybercrime Centre (EC3). “Itâs a growing problem, and one we take very seriously. Criminals are very good at collaborating, victimising millions of users in a moment form anywhere in the world. We need to collaborate as good as them with our international partners to turn the table on these criminals and shut down their malicious cyberattacks.”
“Stresser websites make powerful weapons in the hands of cybercriminals” said Jaap van Oss, Dutch Chairman of the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT). “International law enforcement will not tolerate these illegal services and will continue to pursue its admins and users. This joint operation is yet another successful example of the ongoing international effort against these destructive cyberattacks.”
DDoS-ing is a crime
DDoS attacks are illegal. Many IT enthusiasts get involved in seemingly low-level fringe cybercrime activities, unaware of the consequences that such crimes carry. The penalties can be severe: if you conduct a DDoS attack, or make, supply or obtain stresser or booter services, you could receive a prison sentence, a fine or both.
The individuals that become involved in cybercrime often have a skill set that could be put to a positive use. Skills in coding, gaming, computer programming, cyber security or anything IT-related are in high demand and there are many careers and opportunities available to anyone with an interest in these areas.
This Europol news release was sourced from:
An operation led by Interpol in conjunction with Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³), the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre and law enforcement authorities from 27 EU Member States and third parties, seized over 20,520 domain names in an operation that was revealed to coincide with Cyber Monday this week. The domain names were used for websites that were offering counterfeit goods, for example luxury products, sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and online piracy on e-commerce platforms and social networks.
This joint global recurrent operation ‘In Our Sites’ (IOS) was implemented in 2014 and has since increased significantly. The eighth edition in 2017 of this global operation saw a big range of anti-counterfeiting associations and brand owner representatives joined law enforcement authorities participating in this huge worldwide action, to facilitate international cooperation and support the countries involved in this initiative. A total of 7,776 websites have been seized in the previous editions.
This year’s operation IOS VIII has seen a remarkable increase of up to 20,520 seized domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to consumers. This can be explained by the holistic approach which Europol followed with the aim of making the internet a safer place for consumers, by getting even more countries and private-sector partners to participate in this operation and provide referrals.
“This excellent result shows how important and effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities and private-sector partners is, and how vital it is if we are to ultimately make the internet a safer place for consumers,” said Rob Wainwright, Executive Director of Europol. “Through its Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³), Europol will continue to work closely with its partners to strengthen the fight against intellectual property crime online and offline.”
“Targeting copyright-infringing websites that market dangerous counterfeit goods to consumers and engage in other forms of intellectual property theft will continue to be a priority for law enforcement,” said acting IPR Center Director Nick Annan. “Strengthening our collaboration with police authorities around the world and leaders of industry will reinforce the crackdown on IP crimes, and demonstrate that there is no safe haven for criminals committing these illicit activities.”
Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) continued to join efforts in 2017 by successfully supporting many high-priority investigations related to online crimes, providing training related to online investigations, and organising a conference on Innovative Strategies for Effective Enforcement in Antwerp, Belgium, on 19-20 September 2017.
One of the participants in the IOS, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested two Mexican nationals earlier this year for allegedly operating a counterfeit airbag business out of their residence in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dina Gonzalez-Marquez and Emilio Gonzalez-Marquez were charged with conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods and two counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods. The two Mexican nationals facilitated the listing and selling of counterfeit airbag modules and airbag covers through their online website airbagsplace.com, and conducted in person sales of the counterfeit goods.
As part of HSI’s enforcement actions the website domain name was seized and the merchant account used to facilitate the illegal activity was shut down. If convicted on the charges in the indictment, Dina Gonzalez-Marquez and Emilio Gonzalez-Marquez each face a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $2 million.
The easy access to the internet has made fighting counterfeiting and piracy a worldwide challenge. Counterfeiters’ ability to remain anonymous and operate thousands of web domains brings significant challenges for both the private sector and law enforcement efforts directed at taking down rogue websites and tracking down the individuals behind them. Furthermore, it has become increasingly easy to become a victim of counterfeiting. Mindful of this, Europol’s IPC³ has produced a new awareness video for consumers about the risks of ordering counterfeit medicines online. This phenomenon knows no limits – in the best-case scenario, fake medicines leave patients with no ill effects but also with no cure and in many other cases, they could even be life threatening.
Europol also wants to help consumers identify illicit websites selling counterfeit goods. For more information about the risks of buying counterfeits and other means used by counterfeiters, such as fake social media accounts and fake apps, visit Europol's dedicated web page.
EURid and Europol have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to engage in joint efforts related to fighting cybercrime, to exchange statistical data and trends pertaining to cybercrime, and to commit to cooperate on projects designed to combat cybercrime.The MoU between EURid, the .eu and .ею registry operator, and Europol, the European Police Office, will see the two organisations collaborate through the exchange of knowledge and support pertaining to cybercrime. Specifically, it entails (1) the engagement in joint efforts related to fighting cybercrime, (2) the exchange of statistical data and trends pertaining to cybercrime, and (3) the commitment to cooperate on projects designed to combat cybercrime.Overall, cybercrime rates worldwide have been climbing over the past few years. It’s up to us to increase our efforts in combatting illegal activity online and hopefully influence others to do the same” states Geo Van Langenhove, EURid’s Legal Manager. According to Europol, some EU Member States are now reporting that the recording of cybercrime offences may have surpassed those associated with traditional crimes in 2016.EURid and Europol joining forces marks a large step in the right direction to combating cybercrime, but their efforts won’t stop there. “It’s imperative that we continue to monitor and identify abusive registrations and alleged illegal activity happening within the .eu and .ею space and take action in a timely manner. Our collaboration with Europol will greatly help us accomplish this, however, we must continue to evolve in order to remain a step ahead of those with malicious intent” comments Giovanni Seppia, EURid’s External Relations Manager.Earlier this month EURid announced that in 2015 alone, they suspended 14,710 domain names and so far in 2016, a total of 5,877 domain names were suspended. As an additional measure, EURid has been actively working with various law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Economy and the Cybersquad team.
Over 4,500 domain names hosting websites selling counterfeit products to consumers online have been seized by law enforcement authorities in a joint global operation. Operation In Our Sites VII tackled copyright-infringing websites and third-party marketplace listings selling luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products.There were roughly 15,000 illegal websites seized and 48,000 erroneous ecommerce links removed over the past year as part of the operation.Law enforcement authorities from 27 countries, anti-counterfeiting associations and brand owner representatives participated in this huge action, which was coordinated and facilitated by Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition, the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and Interpol.”This year’s operation IOS VII has seen a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year. This excellent result shows how effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities and private sector partners is vital to ultimately make the internet a safer place for consumers. Through its Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³), Europol will continue to work closely with its partners to strengthen the fight against intellectual property crime online and offline,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.”The tremendous collaborative efforts between law enforcement and industry prove the internet is not a safe haven for counterfeiters preying on consumers,” said the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center Director Bruce Foucart. “Our investigators are committed to bringing online pirates to justice by seizing websites, working with global police authorities and strengthening relationships with industry partners.”Fighting the trade of counterfeit products online is a challenging and difficult task for law enforcement. To strengthen the fight against counterfeiting and piracy online and offline, Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) joined forces to launch the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC) in July 2016. With its increased operational capabilities, the IPC has successfully supported many high-priority investigations related to online intellectual property infringements such as Operation Student and Operation Fake.
Operation In Our Sites, conducted by Europol, has taken down 999 more domain names for websites selling counterfeit goods, according to the European police agency.
This is the sixth Operation In Our Sites operation with over 1,500 domains previously seized, often in cooperation with European and United States law enforcement bodies.
The operation tackled the sale of counterfeit goods (including intellectual property (IP) trademark infringements) and online piracy (IP copyright infringements) on e-commerce platforms and social networks.
Law enforcement agencies from Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, France, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom participated in this huge action, which was organised and led by Europol and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
For the first time in operation IOSâs four-year history, Interpol brought its support through eight of its member countries (Argentina, Chile, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Panama, Peru, South Korea and Thailand).
Europol’s role involved organising, coordinating, exchanging and subsequently analysing data among participating countries, and liaising with rights holders from the private sector.
Cooperation with private industry remains crucial and is key to monitoring and reporting IP-infringing websites to the concerned countries via Europol, to ultimately make the Internet a safer place for consumers. The participating rights holders represented different sectors including traditional luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals and toiletries.
Operation IOS VI followed a new format, in line with the EU Action Plan on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, which resulted in the triggering of seven additional operations. Moreover, several new cases are expected to be initiated due to the huge demand from the rights holders in private industry.
Europol announced last week they had seized just 292 domain names in a global operation with 24 other law enforcement bodies across 18 countries including the U.S. government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The domains were involved in the sale of counterfeit goods online.But a day later the ICE announced 100 times that many domains had been seized in the operation. The ICE announced 29,684 domain names were seized as part of Project Transatlantic/ Operation In-Our-Sites V.The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (National IPR Center) continues to work vigilantly to protect the U.S. public from counterfeit products that pose health and safety concerns or have an adverse effect on the U.S. economy. With its industry partners, the National IPR Center initiated a coordinated effort to disrupt the operation of these infringing websites. During this past year and leading up to Cyber Monday, the National IPR Center and its partners used both criminal and civil actions to successfully shutdown websites selling counterfeit goods, significantly bolstering the overall impact of this year’s efforts. The operation demonstrates the great collaboration between industry members and personnel from the National IPR Center, who effectively worked together to combat this ever growing problem. The National IPR Center extends its appreciation to rights holders representing name brand apparel, handbags, shoes, eyewear, cosmetics, consumer electronics, athletic apparel, sporting goods, personal care products, as well as the entertainment industry. All contributed to this operation’s success.This is the fifth year the HSI-led National IPR Center worked with its international partners to target websites selling counterfeit products online culminating on Cyber Monday. Due to the global nature of Internet crime, the National IPR Center partnered with Europol who, through its member countries, seized top-level domains as part of Project Transatlantic/Operation In-Our-Sites V.”Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said National IPR Center Acting Director Bruce Foucart. “Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”Each year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online. In this ever changing world, the Internet has facilitated the sale of counterfeit merchandise online and counterfeiters have taken advantage of the Internet to deceive, sell and ship counterfeit products directly to unsuspecting consumers. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories, according to the National IPR Center.”The infringement of intellectual property rights is a growing problem in our economies and for millions of producers and consumers. Europol is committed to working with its international partners to crack down on the criminal networks responsible for this illegal activity,” says Rob Wainwright, director of Europol.The HSI-led National IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the National IPR Center uses the expertise of its 23-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the National IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety and the U.S. economy.