37,479 websites struck down for selling counterfeit goods, abusing copyright

The largest website takedown operation to date is part of a crackdown on IP theft, counterfeit goods and online piracy.

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Over 37 thousand websites have been seized by law enforcement as part of an ongoing battle against counterfeit goods trade, IP theft and piracy.

Officials from Europol, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)'s Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center led police agents in a joint operation designed to take down websites in an international operation dubbed In Our Sites (IOS) VI.

On Monday, Europol said websites which touted their goods across e-commerce platforms and social networks were of particular interest.

Operation IOS, which has ran for the past four years, reached the height of its success in phase VI through the takedown of 37, 479 websites, including those which sold counterfeit goods, fraudulent domains and websites which touted online piracy.

Law enforcement from 27 countries -- including new players such as Chile, Japan and Hong Kong -- were involved in the takedowns, which coincided with the Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday -- some of the busiest days for shopping ahead of the holiday season.

"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," Europol said.

"The participating rights holders represented different sectors including traditional luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals and toiletries."

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Traders of counterfeit goods can make a killing not only on the street but now online. You only need to look at Google search results to find websites screaming about discount designer items, pharmaceuticals and rock-bottom prices on luxury items -- however, not only are many of these products fake, but visiting these websites can be dangerous -- as they may be waiting to deliver malware payloads to unsuspecting shoppers looking for a good deal.

"This effort highlights the global commitment to take aggressive action against online piracy," said IPR Center Director Bruce Foucart.

"The IPR Center will continue to collaborate with international law enforcement and industry to protect consumers from purchasing counterfeit goods online, which could expose sensitive financial information and present a health and safety threat.

In previous phases of the operation, law enforcement seized over a thousand websites across the US, Europe and other continents. As long as fraudulent websites keep appearing, law enforcement has a difficult challenge on its hands to not only keep consumers safe but prevent the widespread sale of dodgy goods.

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