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Internet fraud: 5,000 online shops deleted

2017 switchBrand-name shoes for CHF 49 instead of CHF 149 – a tempting offer. Internet bargain hunters may fall victim to fraudsters. The security experts at SWITCH warn that the number of fraudulent offers online has increased drastically in 2017. Together with the Swiss authorities, SWITCH is taking measures to fight this threat and has reported its first successes in combating e-commerce crime.

Shoppers who find brand-name products offered online at sensationally low prices should proceed with caution. E-commerce crime is nothing new, but it has increased greatly in 2017. In 2016, SWITCH deleted around 700 web addresses of online shops with a .ch domain ending. By August 2017, the figure had already passed the 5,000 mark. Michael Hausding, a security expert in domain name fraud and a member of the 14-person SWITCH-CERT team of security experts, explains: ‘Thanks to close cooperation with the authorities and improved processes, our targeted campaign allowed us to remove 4,500 fraudulent .ch online shops in August 2017 alone. The fraudsters running these shops were attempting to steal money from internet users or gain access to their credit card information. By taking this approach, we are one step ahead of other domain endings, such as .com. We want internet users in Switzerland to continue to rely on a high level of security and trustworthiness of .ch web addresses.’

Threats on the web

Internet users who visit fraudulent websites are exposed to several risks: they provide their credit card information along with email and postal addresses to criminal organisations. After making payment, they receive merchandise of inferior quality – if they receive anything at all.

Service package to protect internet users

To better protect internet users against threats when visiting .ch websites, the foundation has intensified its cooperation with the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) and other Swiss authorities, and has automated the processes for assisting the authorities. The security experts have also created a list of five tips for secure online shopping.

Five tips for secure online shopping

1. Security features

Legitimate online shops are protected by a secure web connection. When you arrive at the ‘Checkout’ process, at the very latest, you should be able to recognise a legitimate webshop by its security attributes, such as a green lock icon and use of https:// instead of http://. Both security attributes are visible in the address line of your browser.

    2. Promises of discounts

Be suspicious of brand-name product offerings with unusually big discounts.

3. Internet address

Have an overall look at the provider: does its name, logo and web address seem credible? If you are unfamiliar with the shop, ask around to see whether other people have had a good experience with it. Fraudsters like to use web addresses of legitimate, albeit defunct, websites. This allows them to exploit the recognition factor and a better Google ranking.

    4. Imprint

Switzerland requires websites to include an imprint (Impressum). Websites that offer merchandise, works or services must disclose their identity with a name and contact address. The link to the imprint is usually found at the bottom of a website. Be suspicious if a link, such as in this example, is missing or if the information provided does not seem credible. If in doubt, check the website address with www.nic.ch; this website operated by SWITCH lists the contact address given by the holder of the domain name when it was registered. But beware: this address may be fictitious. Avoid a webshop if this information seems dubious to you.

5. Reporting form

Help us! Always report fraudulent and suspicious websites to the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) by completing the reporting form: https://www.fedpol.admin.ch/fedpol/en/home/kriminalitaet/cybercrime/meldeformular.html

    Removal procedure – close cooperation with authorities

If a Swiss authority (e.g. fedpol, MELANI, Comlot, ESBK, SECO, Swissmedic) comes across a .ch website that is potentially in violation of the law in the course of its work, it attempts to contact the owner of the .ch domain name. This requires a contact address in Switzerland. If the domain name owner has registered an invalid address or an address outside the country in the SWITCH database, the authority contacts SWITCH. The foundation then gives the owner 30 days to provide a valid address in Switzerland. If the deadline passes without a response, SWITCH deletes the domain name and the fraudulent website is no longer accessible. This procedure is in line with the Federal Ordinance on Internet Domains (IDomsO).

Protecting Europe’s most secure address

The security experts at SWITCH have been very proactive in fighting cybercrime for several years now, particularly in the case of malware and phishing. As a result, .ch has become Europe’s most secure domain ending. Together with partners in the Swiss internet industry, SWITCH also started the Safer Internet initiative. SWITCH is also working closely with the Swiss authorities in the area of white-collar crime. The goal is always the same: to offer Swiss internet users maximum protection against threats.

Sample screenshots of fraudulent webshops

More information

28 August 2017: Joining forces to eliminate fake webshops https://www.switch.ch/stories/fakewebshops/

19 May 2017: 30 years of .ch: Europe’s most secure address https://www.switch.ch/en/news/30years-ch

25 January 2016: Publication Security on the Internet: Trends, threats, strategies https://www.switch.ch/en/about/publications/brochures/

Safer Internet initiative https://www.switch.ch/saferinternet/

Ordinance on Internet Domains OID https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/20141744/index.html

Fedpol reporting form https://www.fedpol.admin.ch/fedpol/en/home/kriminalitaet/cybercrime/meldeformular.html

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