Stats entertainment – Squatters’ wrongs

Who is abusing your brand online? One market research company has made it its mission to track so-called ‘brandjackers’, who use the good name of legitimate businesses to scam unsuspecting surfers.

MarkMonitor publishes a quarterly report on the state of play. In the spring 2008 BrandJacking Index, the company identified the most common techniques.

Top of the pile, with over 400,000 instances tracked as cyber-squatting – the act of purchasing a URL that seems as though it belongs to a well-known organisation but is instead used to persuade that organisation’s customers to hand over their credit card details. That figure rose by 40% compared with last year.

The second most common act, with 80,000 exploits tracked, was of scammers falsely associating themselves with a well-known brand.

The report found that the vast majority of phishing activity (spoofing a company’s URL in order to trick its customers into handing over personal information) related to just 14 company brands, 12 of which were in the financial services industry.

Despite the predominance of financial services companies among phishing scams, it is media brands that are most commonly exploited by brandjackers overall, the report also found, with more than 40,000 instances of abuse in that sector recorded in the first quarter of 2008.

But the most disturbing findings of the report came from its examination of the airline industry.

The researchers found 24 instances of vendors on business-to-business exchanges illegally offering aircraft parts from leading aircraft engineering brands. Reflecting the scale of this illegal trade, some vendors stipulated minimum orders of 1,900 metric tons per month.

“At best, this is a grey market for legitimate spare [aeroplane] parts,” the report’s authors write. “At worst, these listings are selling phony or questionable parts.”

Perhaps most bizarrely of all was the request of one trader who claimed to be offering jets, helicopters and light aircraft from global manufacturers in exchange for, of all things, cement.

“The Internet,” MarkMonitor concludes, “is a strange and nasty place.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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