Use Internet as investigative tool, urges CIB

  • 14 November 2008

The ICC Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB) is urging its members to make full use of the Internet as an investigative tool.

It is vital that investigators keep pace with technology, the Bureau says, as a number of recent cases demonstrate. Most notable of these is the battle between illegal downloaders and authorities trying to clamp down on this activity.

Access to the notorious torrent tracker site The Pirate Bay had been blocked in Italy, but last month a court ruled that the block was illegal and returned access to the site.  In a similar case a Belgian ISP was ordered to stop all piracy on its network, but last month the court reversed its decision, recognising that it was impossible for the ISP to comply with the ruling.  A third case, in the US, was the first file-sharing lawsuit to go to trial, resulting in a fine of $200,000 for the culprit. Last month, however, this verdict was declared a mistrial.

CIB Manager Max Vetter commented: “These cases show that understanding the Internet and how it works is very important, not just for judges, but investigators, managers and anyone looking to stay in touch with an increasingly online world.”

The Net is one of the fastest growth areas, with the continual development of Web 2.0 (user-generated content) and the “deep web” – making it an essential resource for any intelligence analyst or investigator. Web 2.0 is particularly pertinent when attempting to locate specific individuals: many people willingly submit a plethora of personal information on so-called ‘social networking’ sites. The tech-savvy investigator can often glean information in a matter of minutes, and all from the comfort of his own desk, that ten years ago could have taken weeks to amass.

The Internet, however, is not only a useful tool for those looking to protect brands. The CIB has seen an increase in the prevalence of online pharmacies selling counterfeit medicines. Many criminal organisations have realised the money to be made and are combining their skills, using spam e-mails and phishing websites, to sell fake medicines. At best, says Mr Vetter, these drugs will have little or no effect. At worst they might seriously jeopardise the wellbeing of the consumer.

The CIB offers training in the form of an annual Internet Intelligence Course that provides many of the skills essential for intelligence analysts and investigators to fully utilise the Net as an ever-expanding research tool.