The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency picked the busiest online shopping day of the year to shut down 82 websites -- including the domain of a BitTorrent meta-search engine -- the federal government said are offering counterfeit or pirated goods.
The ICE has sent the sites seizure orders on what's known as "Cyber Monday" as part of a government operation called Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0, according to a the Department of Justice (DoJ).
The operation is a joint effort between the department and ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and continues a decade-long federal crackdown on the sale of illegal or counterfeit materials over the web.
Anyone attempting to access the sites will not be able to make a purchase, but instead will find a banner notifying them the domain has been seized by federal authorities, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement published online.
"As the holiday shopping season gets underway, we are also reminding consumers to exercise caution when looking for deals and discounts online," he said. "To put it simply: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is."
The DoJ said the sites it has seized -- a list of which it did not publish -- have been selling an array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, and sunglasses. They also illegally offer copyrighted materials, such as DVDs, software, and CDs, according to the DoJ.
The TorrentFreak blog has posted a list of sites it claims were shut down by the ICE. Other published reports claim the sites are already up and running again under different domain names.
Authorities said they made undercover purchases from the sites to determine that they were selling counterfeit goods. In many cases, items purchased were shipped into the United States from suppliers overseas using international express mail, according to the DoJ.
Other sites shut down are those that allow for peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing of copyrighted materials, according to published reports.
The government's attempt to shut down these types of sites -- which allow people to share software, music, and videos without having to pay for actual copies of the materials -- dates back to the early part of the century, when Napster made P2P file-sharing popular.