Europol and ICE seize 132 domain names on Cyber Monday

The operation seems to have been led by the US authorities (specifically the ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center), with Europol coordinating action against those sites with .be, .eu, .dk, .fr, .ro, and .uk domains in Europe. According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 132 sites were seized (Europol says it was 133). Operation Project Cyber Monday 3 closed down 101 sites, while Project Transatlantic closed down 31 sites in Europe.

The seized sites have not been named, although CBS Los Angeles names two in Southern California: www.autoforms8m.com and www.23isking.com. Both sites now display a typical ICE ‘site seized’ banner, but with additional European law enforcement stamps. The banners also have an additional explanation: “Operation In Our Sights- Project Cyber Monday 3/Project Transatlantic is a coordinated effort by U.S. and European law enforcement agencies targeting websites and their operators that sell counterfeit goods.”

Nor have the counterfeit goods concerned been specified, although the ICE announcement stated, “federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products; including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products.” Once the counterfeit nature of the goods was confirmed, seizure orders for the sites were obtained from federal magistrate judges. 

Although the domain names have been seized, they have not yet been forfeited. The process allows a period of time for interested parties to contest a notice of seizure, and a further period to contest any subsequent notice of forfeiture. So far, Operation In Our Sights has seized 1,529 domain names, of which 684 have been forfeited to the US government. Once a site has been forfeited, a video designed to “educate the public about the criminal consequences of trafficking in counterfeit goods and the economic impact that crime has on the U.S. and global economies,” is linked from the seizure banner.

It is not clear what percentage of the seized sites were involved in the sale of pirated music, videos or software – although ‘DVDs’ and ‘Adobe software’ have been named. Operation In Our Sights has been criticized in the past as acting more like the enforcement arm of ‘Hollywood’ than a traditional law enforcement agency.

Europol joined the IPR Center earlier this year. “I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes,” commented Rob Wainwright, the Director of Europol. “IPR theft is not a harmless or victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks and it undermines our economy.” 

"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center," added ICE Director John Morton. "Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win."

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?