The Dark Web Ain’t As Dark As You Think

Businessman searching virus in a laptopI have recently been asked several times by clients and colleagues about the dark web.  When I began writing this article I was still debating whether I should use capitals when addressing the dark web.  After a few thoughts, I decided that it does not warrant its own title.  The dark web is as much a proper place as a dark alley.  Before I discuss my reasoning here, I should give you all a quick synopsis of what the dark web actually is, and it isn’t what you may think.  The Internet, as we know it, is a network of millions of servers that connect to one another and, as a result, catalog one anothers’ contents.  This enables search engines like Google and Bing to index the information for free and resell it to their consumers for a profit, financed by advertisers.

The dark web, however, is a network of tens of thousands of servers that connect using a service called TOR.  TOR (or The Onion Router) is partially funded by the United Stated Department of Defense and guided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Neither of these organizations have an inkling of how this network will make a profit.  Websites that reside in the dark web use a TLD (top level domain) different than most.  Here is the secret that the low-level professionals wish not for you to know.  The only difference between a regular website and a dark website is the TLD (or top level domain).  The Electronic Frontier Foundation created a specifically anonymous TLD at .onion.  After explaining you this simple issue, many of you may have already figured out the next step.  But here goes:

The only way for anyone to access a .onion website is to be logged in using the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s TOR browser.  Once you know the URL of a dark web website, you can access it by typing it into your browser after already being logged into the TOR network.  Look, your teacher here is a Freemason.  So I already understand the concept of a secret handshake.  It’s even possible that some of you have had a tree house at some point.  Everything of secrecy requires a secret handshake.  This is literally all the dark web requires.  A secret handshake that’s available to anyone.

So the only secrets behind accessing the dark web are two.  One is knowing the protocol mentioned above.  The second is knowing where to get around.  There is obviously no Google or Bing set up in the dark web at this juncture.  This is where the ability to develop an undercover identity is valuable.  No matter how dark the web, or how scary the neighborhood, you need to get to know the territory.  So don’t waste time.  Download TOR and start looking for .onion sites.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

Stain on blog from Rob's coffee cup

Domain Valuation: There is No Kelley Blue Book

Domain Valuation There is No Kelley Blue Book - IPCybercrimeWhen someone goes about buying a car, there is a valuation model to follow.  If a car is brand new, the value is set by the manufacturer, which allows for their margin plus a margin for the dealer.  Once a vehicle is driven off of the lot the depreciation begins.  That is, unless the vehicle’s value appreciates.  Take, for example, the greatest car ever constructed, the Shelby Mustang GT500 of the late 1060s and early 1970s.  When the 1971 model starred in the film classic Gone in 60 Seconds, it changed the world of movie car chases.  The 2000 Nicholas Cage remake of Gone in 60 Seconds used a 1967 model of the same vehicle, and revitalized the world’s fascination with “Eleanor” (the code name given to the sumptuous steel vixen).  That particular model was recently sold at auction for over one million dollars.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find a fix-er-upper for $100,000.  That’s a far cry from the original sticker price of $8,000 when it was sold right off of the assembly line.

This same story can be told about domain valuation.  There are websites out there giving ‘valuations’ of domain names but, as well-meaning as they may be, only take into account simple factors such as keyword popularity, selling price of similar names and very little else.  Domain valuation is never that simple.  When we first receive a request from a client to inquire about the purchase of a domain we first investigate the owner.  This allows us to take into account factors such as their initial intention, other uses, their tech savvy and even their financial bracket.  Typically there are two kinds of domain owners out there.  The first is the ‘domainer’, who valuates the domain using a cold formula then awaits a reasonable price and moves on to the next domain.  No emotion is tied to the deal.  It’s just a number.  Then there’s the individual who purchased it with a vision in mind, went to the trouble to register the same name on other social networks and sees the name’s potential in a way that only a parent can with its own child.  With the latter person, it doesn’t matter if the project is dead or alive; whether they are in need of funds or not.  To them, the name is priceless.

This does not mean there isn’t a number that could greenlight this sale.  It just means that the owner of the name values it in such a way that ‘they’ can’t put a price on it.  There is always a price.  It is our job to begin a negotiation that welcomes a dialogue.  This means to get to know the individual and build rapport.  It also means we need to come up with a starting price that does not turn them away.  If I offered you $500 for Eleanor, you’d likely not return my call and, even more likely burn me for future contact.  Our approach has shaved millions off of domain name selling prices.  This doesn’t mean we’ll be able to buy you a domain for a fraction of its potential price.  What we guarantee at IPCybercrime will provide honest, respectful treatment of both sides and the best possible outcome for you, the buyer.

Social Discovery is Changing Everything

How Social Discovery is Changing Everything (jars) - IPCybercrimeWhenever a legal incident that begins online comes to notice there is a very small window to manage the collection and preservation of the data. If you’ve ever watched the popular A&E documentary television series entitled “The First 48“, you have been exposed to the importance placed into the actions that take place within first couple of days after the discovery of the crime.  Just as in the physical world, a “CSI” team must be the first to step in to ‘freeze’ that moment in time for later analysis.  No one else involved should touch anything until it has been preserved by their trained evidence collection team. Popular culture has conditioned us to accept this process in the physical world. Over the last decade, we have been introduced to the concept of computer forensics where a computer or smartphone may contain important data and must be preserved. But what happens when that case begins online? Online cases far outnumber both physical crimes and also crimes that start with a device that is in your custody. In these cases, the collection of data must be handled with much more care and finesse.

This is where Social Discovery comes in. The most common methods of preserving a moment of time online are: 1) Taking a screenshot using software like TechSmith’s Snagit, 2) printing to PDF, or 3) downloading the entire website using an offline browsing tool such as HTTrack. All of these methods are good, but they do not present data in a forensic fashion that can be scrutinized later by an expert. A screenshot can be taken of a doctored web page. The same can be done with a PDF printout. Files can be manipulated in an offline browser after download. In all of these cases the case is relying only on the testimony and the credibility of the individual who collected the data. There is no benchmark with which to measure his/her accuracy by an outside expert.  Social Discovery, a very recent specialty introduced in the last couple of years, has made it possible for online acquisition of data to be held to the same standard as blood evidence and computer forensics. Let’s face it. More crimes are taking place in the cloud than known locations. This requires a tried process that has been tested in court. Social Discovery is a process that ensures all data is not only collected properly, but preserved with the proper forensic properties including a hash value that can be compared to the original. This will be the difference whether or not your online evidence stands the scrutiny of the opposing counsel’s expert.

At IPCybercrime, all of the common techniques are included in every service we provide. We also recommend that you request our additional Social Discovery service. For an additional fee, we can deliberately collect every tweet, Facebook post, Youtube video, or anything else that can be published online. Social Discovery also includes forensic collection of web-based emails such as GMail, Hotmail and Yahoo! (if credentials are provided by deponent).  Whatever you do, make sure you have your bases covered. Social Discovery is the way to go.

Silicon Beach Vital to Future of IP on the Web, IPCybercrime Re-Opens CA Office

Silicon Beach Vital to Future of IP on the Web, IPCybercrime Re-Opens CA OfficeNext month, world renowned intellectual property investigations and cyber consulting firm IPCybercrime will be opening a satellite office in Los Angeles’s Westside in order to address the needs of their intellectual property and technology clients.  This neighborhood, also known as the Silicon Beach, has long been home to digital entertainment firms and is now headquarters to more than 500 technology companies and content creators.

Long a staple in the fashion and luxury markets, IPCybercrime has seen a surge in technology clients in the last half decade; specifically, content creators.  “In 2013 we witnessed the dawn of the platinum age of television.  In 2014 quality online streaming video became a viable profit model”, says IPCybercrime’s founder & CEO Rob Holmes.  According to PwC, streaming home video revenue will exceed physical home video revenue by 2018.  “In 2015 we will be faced with a new gold rush of intellectual property theft.  For the first time in history online pirated content will be in direct competition alongside major legitimate sources of revenue,” Holmes predicts.

Originally forming his company in Los Angeles, Rob Holmes moved IPCybercrime’s headquarters to the burgeoning North Texas area a few years ago to be more central between coasts and to position the company for long-term growth.  For the last several years, Holmes has been a prominent fixture in the Texas technology, marketing and political communities, while making frequent trips to both coasts.  Since 2006, the operational side of IPCybercrime has been overseen by President & COO Jason Holmes, who will continue to run operations and employees at the IPCybercrime Headquarters in Texas.  Rob will be consulting on major IP projects and developing new business in California.  With qualified principal officers in both Texas and California, IPCybercrime aims to tackle the tough issues for brand owners with twice the force.  Both Rob Holmes and Jason Holmes have more than twenty years experience investigating intellectual property crimes each (forty years combined).

IPCybercrime’s focus will remain on enforcing the intellectual property rights online for fashion, entertainment and technology companies.

Fakes in Film: Orphan Black

Fakes in Film Orphan BlackAnybody watch the Season 2 Premiere of this cool show?! Well, if you didn’t this post may be a bit of a spoiler, but not much.  For those of you who have not seen the show yet, here is a brief summary: Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series starring Tatiana Maslany as several identical women who are revealed to be clones. The series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of her clone, Elizabeth (Beth) Childs, after witnessing Beth’s suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning and its effect on issues of personal identity.

From an entertainment perspective my respect goes out to the lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple roles including a streetsmart grifter (Sarah), a manic suburban mom (Alison), a pot-smoking lesbian scientist (Cosima) and a feral Russian assassin (Helena) among others. For those of you who have not seen the show (yet), the main character is Sarah, who is partnered with Alison and Cosima, pooling their collective resources to figure out who made them and who is trying to kill them off.  Maslany’s award-worthy performances are often done playing opposite herself, whether in shootouts or comedic banter.  But the reason I’m writing about Orphan Black on Knockoff Report is the cloning issue. On the surface, cloning can be an interesting topic in the IP debate.

The thing that made me think hard about this wasn’t the epically cool first season.  It was this week’s Season 2 premiere that really brought out the IP geek in me.  The scientist, Cosima, is investigating the codes embedded in their DNA and cracks it. Turns out, embedded in her DNA, and the rest of her clone sisters is a patent notice. Her quote, “We’re property. They patented us.” was the topic of this episode which was entitled “Personal Property”. As interesting as this seems, this is still not why Rob Holmes, an anticounterfeiting expert and enthusiast, was drawn to write about this.  Here is the reason: I admit I do not know the outcome of the entire series and this is where speculation comes in. But, assuming one of the individuals is an original… are the patent owners actually counterfeiters? I say yes.  If I owned the patent for a duplication device, it would not give me rights over the items I copy.  Only rights overs the duplication process.  A patent is a grant of ownership over a specific process. Patents do not protect images, words or content.  This show is very good and I hope it goes on for many seasons.  If this is the case, we will not know some of those answers for years to come.  This means my actual argument may not even be valid until perhaps more seasons pass.  Is there an original?  Was the original created, or born?  But, as an IP geek, this is fun stuff and will keep us thinking for many years to come.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

Fakes in Film: Dallas, Baby!

Dallas_LogoIt’s an ironic thing that I’m located in the same town but, yes, I watch the TNT drama “Dallas” based on the 1980s phenomenon of the same name. To my defense, it’s located in my current city… but the soap opera aspects of the show are still quite appealing. Oil men, big business, politics, hot chicks… no problem putting in my time.

As y’all know the main character J.R. Ewing’s, his son John Ross Ewing, is caught between two (or more) women. One of the women, Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), is loyal to the Ewing family. Her brother Drew, on the other hand, is still trying to find his place in the world and to prove his worth to his sister. In addition to trying to prove his worth to his sister on the Ewing’s Southfork Ranch, he takes a job running goods across the Texas/Mexico border for Ewing rival Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi). A casualty of the rivalry, poor Drew gets caught transporting a truckload of counterfeit designer goods across the US/Mexican border.

Don’t blame the Ewings for this mess. Ryland was the mastermind of the counterfeiting operation from the beginning. But poor Drew is stuck in the middle. After the counterfeit goods incident, Ryland uses misguided Drew to pull off another operation against his own better judgment. But, sadly, there were casualties. If you’re up to date on the show may you know that Drew comes out from hiding this week.

No matter your angle on the show itself (I, personally, side with John Ross), the counterfeit goods arrest will certainly bite Drew, but not as badly as the demolitions operation that killed Christopher’s twins. If you’re not watching the show, IP interest aside, you’re missing out on some good old fashioned soap opera fun. Tune in baby!

Fakes in Film: American Gangster

Fakes in Film: American GangsterWelcome to ‘Fakes in Film’, the first in a new series of articles featuring counterfeit goods and trademark infringement featured in movies and television.  More and more, this topic is being included in pop culture and we want to be there to show it to you.  Some references will be old/retro and some will be completely new.  So here goes…

One of my favorite crime films of the last decade is Ridley Scott’s epic “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The film chronicles the rise and fall of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Washington) who is pursued by the flawed hero Richie Roberts (Crowe).

As a businessman I quickly connected with Lucas’ recognition of eliminating the middleman to connect directly with the supplier. He immediately doubled his profits after this step and gained respect from his peers by how he eliminated said middleman.  As a crime-fighter I related to Roberts’ pure motives and focus on the prize.  He wanted to stop Lucas’ criminal activities at all cost.  He did.

What does this film have to do with trademark infringement?  Of all films in recent years this sticks out with me the most.  Frank Lucas (Washington) is enjoying the spoils of the success of his uncut heroine on the streets on 1970s New York City.  What many may not recall is that he created a brand for this drug called “Blue Magic”.  When a competitor began using his trademark to distribute substandard drugs, he quickly met with this individual and explained the situation to him as follows:

  • “Blue Magic is a brand name; as much a brand name as Pepsi. I own it. I stand behind it. I guarantee it and people know that even if they don’t know me any more than they know the chairman of General Foods.  What you’re doing, as far as I’m concerned, when you chop my dope down to five percent, is trademark infringement.”

This illustrates to me, more than the usual venues, how brand recognition is so important that it transcends even legal commerce.  Brands rule, baby.  They rule completely.  Even though many of us spend our time trying to stop criminals from infringing on our clients’ trademarks, they too care about their own brands.  Irony?  yes.  Another way to track them?  Yes also.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

coffee stain

Rob Holmes Addresses eDiscovery Panel at INTA Meeting

eDiscoveryThe International Trademark Association annual Leadership Meeting in Miami Beach is underway. The closing session on Saturday Nov 16th is entitled eDiscovery: Obtaining Electronic Documents without any Glitches.

The moderator is legendary attorney Susan Kayser (Partner, Jones Day) who will be fielding questions with Rob Holmes (CEO, LLC), Douglas ‘Chip’ Rettew (Partner, Finnegan LLP) & Jed Wakefield (Partner, Fenwick & West LLP).

This will not be your mother’s eDiscovery panel. There will be mojitos served and lots of good chit chat. Actually, I’m working on the mojitos.  We’ll see if the association approves it.  I wonder if they’ll let me bring sand on the stage….

The topics covered will vary from the latest rules decreed by US courts to International considerations. What does the process cost? What third-party organizations exist to foil your efforts? Are there standards to follow? What are the best practices to follow for collection and production? All of this will be addressed and more in this fun panel on the beaches of Miami with mojito in hand.

If you haev any interested in this topic and enjoy a good mojito you MUST NOT miss this.

IPCybercrime to Address Law Enforcement in St. Louis

nw3c_logoAs a part of a federal grant program, the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) along with the National Association of Attorney’s General (NAGTRI) are addressing law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the state and local level in St. Louis, Missouri tomorrow, September 17th at William J. Harrison Education Center located at St. Louis Community College.  The project was created to raise awareness and give support to law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the state and local level  all over the nation in the area of Intellectual Property Rights.  Rob Holmes, CEO of IPCybercrime, will present his talk entitled IPCybercrime: Knockoffs & The Web where he demonstrates the relationships between sellers of fakes and elaborate criminal organizations.

Following Holmes’ presentation will be other dynamic speakers including: Michelle Boykins (National Crime Prevention Council), Judy McKee (National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute), Keith Lyon (Deputy Attorney General, State of CA), Sheresa Absher (Detective, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department), Jeffrey Othic (Homeland Security Investigations), Matt Braunel (Partner, Thompson Coburn LLP) and Bryon Hennessey (Morgantown PD).

This is a one-day training that should not be missed by Law Enforcement in the Greater St. Louis area.

IPCybercrime CEO Rob Holmes to Speak at International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition

robiprsummitThe International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition’s spring meeting is in Dallas, Texas this year. That means New York lawyers will be kicking back and eating barbecue for a few days. As part of the program, they tapped IPCybercrime’s CEO Rob Holmes to speak on his expertise where trademarks and the Internet collide.

To kick off the conference, on May 1st, Holmes will present one of his most popular talks “The Virtual Crime Scene: Website Analysis”. In this presentation, Rob will explain his procedure when a client first sends over a new case. He will detail: What to record as the “first responder”, how to grab data along the way, and how collecting small pieces of data case help save your case. Since all of his cases begin online, this is the keystone of his business. Listen as Rob gives you a glimpse of his day-to-day case intake for Internet counterfeiting cases.

On the closing day, Friday May 3rd, Rob will join a panel of experts for a presentation entitled “Social Media and New Technology”. Technology is advancing at a feverish rate. The next generation of counterfeiters will have grown up using
social media in their everyday lives prior to even commencing their illegal enterprise. In order to stay ahead of
the curve, you need to embrace this fast-paced environment before it’s too late. This discussion will explore the newest trends in counterfeiting and social media and provide an outlook into the future of technology to help
you ‘meet & greet’ the ever-changing challenge ahead. The moderator will be David Lipkus of Kestenberg, Siegal, Lipkus LLP and they will be joined by David Benjamin, Senior Vice President, Anti-Piracy, Universal Music.

If you plan on attend this conference, come and check it out.  Rob’s talks are always fun and educational.


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