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User-Agent strings: Everything you need to know
Impersonation Removal
2 mins

User-Agent strings: Everything you need to know

Table of Contents:

    In the vast expanse of the internet, where legality and subterfuge collide, lies a peculiar island inhabited by pirates—the realm of User-Agent strings. These seemingly innocuous snippets of information play a pivotal role in the cat-and-mouse game between copyright enforcement and illicit content providers.

    What are User-Agent strings?

    Picture your web browser as an ambassador visiting foreign shores. Upon arrival at a website, it extends a formal introduction: “I am Mozilla Firefox on Windows” or “Greetings, I am Safari on an iPhone.” Encoded in the User-Agent string, this introduction reveals critical details about the browser and operating system.

    Red Points' business impersonation removal

    How User-Agent strings work

    Fake websites are adept at deception. They exploit User-Agent strings to serve content based on the visitor’s device selectively. Here’s their stratagem:

    Desktop users: The veil of legitimacy

    • When desktop browsers arrive, the website unfurls its respectable façade.
    • Legitimate content—news articles, advertisements, and other innocuous material—fills the screen.
    • The website shows a “clean” version with non-pirated content.

    Mobile users: The hidden bounty

    • But when a mobile browser approaches, the plot thickens.
    • The same website detects the mobile User-Agent (e.g., Safari on an iPhone).
    • It unveils concealed links—X marks the spot!—leading to pirated content or counterfeit products.
    • Illegal movie streams, copyrighted music, forbidden downloads, and counterfeit products emerge from the digital shadows.

    Why this works:

    • Legal cover: By serving legitimate content to desktop users, piracy websites can claim they’re not directly involved in piracy. Compliance teams use desktops when investigating.
    • Evasion: They avoid legal action by making it harder for copyright holders to detect and prove infringement.
    • User experience: Mobile users get what they want (pirated content/ counterfeit products), while desktop users see a more “innocent” face.

    The impact of Ad Campaigns

    Now, let us delve deeper into the pirate’s playbook. Enter the Ads Campaigns:

    • These campaigns harness advertising networks to promote specific websites.
    • The names of advertisers do not align with the brand being promoted or counterfeited.
    • The ads masquerade as enticing offers: “70% discount”, “Don’t miss the chance”, “Free downloads! Exclusive content!”, “Overstock Clearance”.
    • The more you click and interact with the content, the more ads you will likely encounter with too-good-to-be-true products.
    • Ads campaigns provide piracy sellers with a global audience. Through social media ad platforms, they can effortlessly connect with potential buyers worldwide and even tailor their targeting. For instance, they can exclude the headquarters’ city or country of the counterfeit product/brand or run a one-day campaign.

    How to use technology to detect User-Agent strings

    As copyright enforcers patrol this piracy ecosystem, the pirates adapt. It’s a perpetual game of wits. With a 10-year-trained AI, Red Points developed an Impersonation Removal Service that:

    • Reverse engineers detection process to get closer to infringers.
    • Its automated tools scan for pirated content and counterfeit product offers.
    • The more advertisers identified, the more ecommerce ecosystem domains we can map.
    • Pirates—clever as ever— always try to find new ways to stay elusive.

    What’s next

    As the issue of online impersonation and piracy is constantly evolving, it’s essential to remain vigilant and adapt to new challenges. To protect your digital presence, it’s important to understand and employ effective strategies.

    Red Points has designed solutions to tackle online infringement by blending technology and expertise. Considering the dynamic nature of digital threats, seeking expert guidance and advanced tools is a wise choice. 

    If you want to learn more about how these solutions can be applied effectively, request a demo to explore solutions for protecting your digital assets. This is essential for those who want to enhance their approach to online security and brand protection.

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