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Recent weeks have brought dramatic changes to how we work and live, with an increasing amount of people working remotely and spending more time and money on the internet. Unfortunately, international crises provide the perfect opportunity for criminals to take advantage.
WIPR, in association with Appdetex, covered how the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour, how bad actors are taking advantage, and what brands can do to fight back in a webinar hosted yesterday, May 6.
Ripe for bad actors
“As eyeballs have gone online, we’ve seen advertisers chase after those eyeballs,” says Fred Felman, chief marketing officer of Appdetex. “That was obvious when we looked at digital advertising trends of last year, digital ad spend exceeded that of traditional media.”
Now, as more people stay at home, we’re seeing a very large amount of time spent on digital media. But, Felman also believes that traditional media will also see an increase during this health crisis.
As countries remain in lockdown, and many work from home, brands are having to adapt, says Fabricio Vayra, partner at Perkins Coie.
“We’re no longer walking to our local department store or being out and about interacting with brands so they’re increasing their offerings for us to interact with them online. There are some great opportunities for brand owners, but it starts to condition the consumer in ways that make them pretty ripe for bad actor fraud,” he warns.
Vayra’s team handles enforcement around fraud calls—behaviour has changed here too, with the number of phone numbers being used by fraudsters decreasing by three-quarters, but the avenues of exposure online increasing.
Bad actors are getting creative in the ways they target consumers, with both participants citing the developments following US President Donald Trump’s order for 167 million face masks from 3M as a prime example of this.
Immediately after the news broke that Trump’s administration had made the order, other companies jumped in to help, with the interior supplier to Rolls Royce and Porsche stating that it was planning to make thousands of masks each day.
“As a Porsche lover, you’ll then see an advertisement featuring a branded face mask. But here’s the question: is this legitimate?,” asks Vayra.
The reason a potentially fake mask becomes more capable of defrauding the consumer is because you’re being exposed to it in three different ways.
“The president is telling people to do certain things, and suppliers are responding to orders,” adds Vayra. “By the time you’re presented with an ad, it’s more likely that you’ll respond to this than you would have two months ago, [because you see it as a] natural outcrop of how you’re being communicated to by brands.”
Essentially, says Felman, bad actors are pivoting, and doing exactly the same thing brands are doing—creating apps, using social media and search engines to promote themselves, and using marketplaces to buy and sell.
Domain abuse is always a vector for this type of issue, he adds.
Using three keywords (COVID, COVID-19 and coronavirus), Appdetex found that 22,000 domain names were registered by the end of March, with approximately 1,000 domain names related to COVID being registered every day.
‘Army of good’
So how can brand protection organisations fight the abuse, while their teams are all working from home and bad actors are adapting quickly?
Felman explains that organisations must establish a clear workflow designating who is responsible for what.
“We’re also seeing a slower reaction from enforcement mechanisms, with people who file notices from claimed infringement [for example] all working from home,” he says, adding that this gives the fraudulent exploits a longer time to live.
Vayra adds: “The issue we have is that you’re trying to organise the ‘army of good’ against these abusers from home. Tactical teams that usually work closely together are now having to do this many miles away from each other.”
He says that relying on cloud applications and emailing each other with sensitive data is making teams more susceptible to abusers.
“We’re thrust back into exactly the pool where some of the abusers have ripe ability to attack us,” warns Vayra.
Listen to the full webinar, “Best Practices in Online Brand Protection: Changing Times, Changing Priorities”, here. You’ll also find out about best practice for the now-distributed teams fighting abuse and the implications of Whois developments on brand protection.
For more information on opportunities to participate in a webinar, contact Sarah Gooding on firstname.lastname@example.org.
To listen to LSIPR's and WIPR's back catalogue, visit our BrightTALK channel.
Appdetex, Perkins Coie, webinar, brand protection, trademarks, COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, consumers, bad actors, fraud