Aviva Zacks had the wonderful opportunity to interview Ricardo Mateos, Strategic Product Manager of Smart Protection. She asked him about the worst counterfeiting threats out there today.
Safety Detectives: What got you interested in cybersecurity?
Ricardo Mateos: The defense of intellectual property, always within the new technologies field, has led me to be close to and have first-hand knowledge of a wide range of telematic crimes, many of which fall within the broad spectrum of cybersecurity. In addition, the various law enforcement departments with which I have worked are usually the same for the different types of crime or are closely related.
That is why I became interested in Smart Protection, a technology company that protects the intellectual property of brands and content on the internet. Our main link to cybersecurity is understanding who is behind these infringements and illegal actions.
The people behind the biggest piracy sites or counterfeit products are knowledgeable about cybersecurity techniques and have the technological knowledge to position their products or illegal content.
Those who commit infringements of copyright or intellectual property rights also commit other types of offenses such as domain stuffing, pixel stuffing, illicit trade with user databases, distribution of malware via the pages themselves, or via illegal file downloads.
Our clients, especially large corporations, have been direct victims of attacks to access privileged information or in the case of large producers, have been exposed to the theft of content that has not yet been officially released.
By drastically reducing the level of piracy, we significantly reduce the number of people with the potential to carry out these actions against cybersecurity.
SD: Tell me about Smart Protection’s technology.
RM: On a technological level, it should be noted that most of the Smart Protection platform is based on a serverless model in which we use different techniques that adapt the frequency of searches to each environment and to each type of product or service.
We use an OSEMN model approach, i.e., we work with a complete vision of all the processes related to data processing, from beginning to end. This would cover everything from data capture, cleaning, and modeling to the interpretation of the data. Some parts of our platform include:
- Data collection – We seek perfection in searches, using algorithms to constantly improve this process for each product. This allows us to know when a search is good for detecting counterfeits and digital piracy for each product. In addition, these algorithms are capable of knowing the necessary frequency for each source: mainly marketplaces, social networks, and piracy sites.
- Cleaning – After obtaining the data, the next thing to do is to delete data. This is an essential part of our work; if the data is not filtered and is irrelevant, the results of the analysis will be useless.
- Scanning – It is essential to discover important patterns and trends through methods of function selection. The data functions we use to train our machine learning models have a great influence on the performance we can achieve.
In the end, we have the application to fight against inappropriate content. We constantly send requests to all players involved for the removal or withdrawal of all content or offers that potentially infringe industrial, intellectual, or brand property rights.
SD: What types of companies use your technology?
RM: Our technology adapts to the needs of our clients smoothly and without the need for integration, which allows us to work with both large and small clients.
In general, the users of our technology are companies that have attractive products and that are especially demanded by the consumer. Typically, piracy reflects the markets; it has a high capacity to listen and adapt and quickly copy and sell the products that have that high demand, regardless of the sector.
We can differentiate between two main types of companies:
The first type is related to Brand Protection, where we have smaller manufacturers or distributors, with one or two products that they want to protect in very specific markets, even, sometimes, with interest in only a few specific platforms. The second type is large corporations, which need more holistic protection that covers not only large catalogs worldwide but also the brand image itself, where it applies the monitoring and safeguarding of the legitimate use thereof.
We also protect companies linked to Content Protection, which are the companies that develop any type of product or content protected by copyright. From local OTTs that have an interest in protection nationally, companies with distribution rights for sports competitions to large majors that want to protect their launches on a global level.
SD: What is the worst threat regarding counterfeits out there today?
RM: From the user’s point of view, the threats could range from the economic aspect, i.e. that the user will lose all the money invested if the purchase turns out to be a scam, to the security aspect, which could make personal and bank data vulnerable, put at risk the devices used for the purchase, etc., as well as to serious health issues when the counterfeit products are related to the pharmaceutical or consumer industry. Last but not least, the ethical issue of promoting, in some way, a criminal industry that undermines the legal ecosystem and undermines innovation and the development of the business fabric, which is the driving force behind many economies.
We also have the point of view of the industry itself. In this area the worst threat, and I think this is something that those who are struggling to develop business will have experienced, is the lack of control. It’s obvious that the damage from product piracy is extensive and the economic impact is direct, but I see the lack of control as something very dangerous for companies because it means that the future damage that piracy and counterfeiting can cause to the brand cannot be predicted or quantified, and therefore an adequate response cannot be prepared for the circumstances. The best response is therefore to anticipate and tackle the root causes of the problems identified, before such a loss of control occurs.
SD: How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed piracy and brand protection forever?
RM: If we analyze the consequences of Covid-19 and its influence on piracy and brand protection, we must consider two points: technology and consumer habits.
The pandemic has significantly multiplied digital activity, increasing the volume of e-commerce and consumption of audiovisual content.
The closure of cinemas, theaters, and even stadiums has led consumers to increase consumption through digital platforms. In addition, the pandemic has replaced physical purchases with online purchases. The momentum of digital consumption that was expected to occur in the coming years, has accelerated and has happened in the last six months.
Technological advances are also evident and have caused products and services offered by companies to be even more attractive to consumers.
As we pointed out earlier, there is a clear correlation between legal consumption, especially when it is attractive, and illegal consumption. We can see that the digital piracy of both content and counterfeit products has increased during this pandemic, especially during lockdown periods.
However, it is too early to analyze the definitive impact it will have on our lives and interests. Every change in trends must be analyzed in order to adapt quickly and flexibly.