Criminal in handcuffs representing online crimeThe Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) division of the City of London Police is celebrating news of a new round of funding that will guarantee its existence until at least 2016. The £3 million funding will be used to help the Police tackle online crime including digital piracy and counterfeiting, both of which continue to rise as more business takes place online.

To date, Pipcu has survived on the £2.56 million budget it was handed at formation back in 2013. And in that time there have been a number of notable successes. Over that period, Pipcu has successfully suspended 2359 internet domain names that were being used by cybercriminals to defraud other web users for instance. Pipcu also estimates that their officers have seized more than £1.29 million worth of counterfeit goods that were being traded through online marketplaces like ebay.

Speaking about the new round of funding to help tackle online crime, Richard Mollett, chief executive of the Publishers Association said,

“We have seen first-hand the important work the Pipcu team does in tackling the problem of pirate websites and the difference they are making in ensuring the online environment is one which is safe and secure for consumers and allows publishers and authors to be remunerated for their work.”

Intended to “dismantle and disrupt” criminal networks built around intellectual property crimes, Pipcu has been active in policing the Internet to protect British businesses and consumers from becoming victims. In addition to seizing fraudulent, or trademarked domain names, Pipcu has also successfully re-engineered web traffic systems to prevent over 5 million attempts to access websites known to be hosting or linking to copyrighted material. Instead visitors are diverted to a Pipcu holding page explaining why the site is inaccessible.

These same sites are also added to Pipcu’s infringing website list (IWL) – an openly available database designed to help advertisers and media buyers identify sites that host illegally sourced content. Armed with this information advertisers can avoid negative press or wasted ad spend.

Although effective, the IWL has come under criticism in recent months because of the somewhat subjective criteria used for classification. Pipcu can add sites to the IWL based on the suspicion of a crime having been committed – there is no need to wait for a judge’s decision or the outcome of a trial to confirm criminal activity. Some opponents of the IWL claim that this can then lead to “over blocking” where legitimate websites may be unfairly blocked.

The latest round of Pipcu funding will help the unit continue their fight against online crime such as counterfeiting and intellectual property theft – and hopefully give them access to the additional resources they need to resolve issues like over blocking with the IWL. For British businesses, the continued existence of Pipcu should be seen as a positive safeguard for themselves and their customers.

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