Silo for Research on the frontlines of discovering and exposing fraud
In a sport that’s both traditional and innovative, it’s hard to build a brand that stands out as an undisputed leader. But that’s precisely the goal that the global manufacturer of sports equipment and apparel has set for themselves: to become the undeniable symbol of excellence based on their products’ unmatched performance, innovative design, precision craftsmanship and superior quality.
Naturally, counterfeiters want to capitalize on the brand’s popularity by selling fake copies or stolen items on online marketplaces around the world. The company has set up a brand protection team, whose charter is to identify and report fraudulent sites and gather information about illegal merchandise sellers. The team reports directly to the General Counsel and operates on a global scale.
Initially, brand protection analysts used their work computers for investigations, but they often ran into blocks set up by the company’s IT team as they attempted to visit shady online marketplaces and potentially toxic sites. To bypass these restrictions, the brand protection team researchers were issued standalone computers with a dedicated access line. And while it helped go around blacklist constraints, these computers frequently got infected with malware and had to be reimaged, causing delays in investigations and placing unnecessary burden on the company’s IT team.
Once the pandemic restrictions went into effect and the company’s entire workforce was required to work remotely, the brand protection team could no longer continue their investigations with their existing tools. They needed a solution that would let them browse the web freely and without constraints, while still protecting the company’s network and endpoints from malware, which is very common in the regions and parts of the internet that they frequent as part of their research.
“Anonymity is a key element of our research”
“Our brand analysts use Silo for Research on a regular basis,” says the company’s director of trademarks and brand protection. “It’s their go-to tool when they need to visit sites that are blocked by our networks, or they know are sketchy and potentially dangerous.”
The information that triggers an investigation can come from a variety of sources: sometimes consumers or store owners report fraudulent websites, other times legitimate distributors would flag a questionable seller and ask for more information about them. Analysts also monitor popular marketplaces and social media sites to see if any merchandise that claims to represent the company’s brand has been posted for sale. “Once we receive an alert, we try to collect as much information about the fraudster as possible,” says a Senior Associate Brand Protection Analyst. “We take screenshots, record URLs and gather other evidence that can help confirm that we are dealing with counterfeit goods.” The analysts then share their discoveries with the legal team, which may issue a takedown request for the offending marketplace and/or report the seller to law enforcement.
“In our work, we rely on anonymity,” continues the analyst. “It’s important that targets are not tipped off to the nature of our investigations.” Silo for Research allows the analysts to manipulate their settings and control how they appear online to website owners. The tool has also given the team the ability to spoof their location to make it look like that they are connecting from local geographies. “Not only does it help bypass blocks that some marketplace operators put on traffic coming from U.S. IP addresses, it also helps us blend in with local visitors and not arouse suspicion,” she explains. For marketplaces in other languages, Silo also offers translation capabilities, making it easier and faster for the analysts to interact with international sites. The company’s IT team also benefits from Silo for Research. The cloud-based single-use browser provides complete isolation from malware, so the brand protection team no longer has to use “burner” machines that need to be regularly cleaned up and reimaged.
As the company’s products continue to gain popularity around the world, the brand protection team acts as its first line of defense against counterfeit, stolen or diverted goods. They rely on Silo for Research to make their work more effective, productive and beneficial for the global manufacturer.