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Cyber Security concept Photo: Thinkstock

Customs sets e-commerce strategy to combat thieves and terrorists

The rapidly expanding e-commerce market is presenting would-be thieves or terrorists new ways to create havoc. That is why in March the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released its initial e-commerce plan to combat illicit or dangerous products crossing U.S. borders, mixed in with the surge in imported small packages being ordered online.

“CBP’s first e-commerce strategy posi­tions CBP to address the various complexities, opportunities, and threats resulting from this global shift in trade to an e-commerce platform,” said Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

During 2017, Customs and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they seized a record 34,143 shipments found to be in violation of intellectual property rights, a jump of 8% over the previous year. An estimated 90% of these seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods were found in the express carrier and international mail sectors.

Customs said it wants enhanced legal and regulatory authorities to better address emerging threats, such as dangerous contraband and counterfeits. As part of this process, it aims to create benefits for those that share advanced electronic data and other information with e-commerce shipments.

Customs compared this plan with the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, developed for cross-border traffic in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The agency noted that in 2017, during a “small packages” special operation in New York, more than five pounds of illicit fentanyl and 1,300 other noncompliant imports were seized. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times that of heroin.)

One ongoing problem, however, is that with lower-value e-commerce shipments, Customs generally receives less data. In response CBP established the E-Commerce and Small Business Branch within the Office of Trade in September 2016. Customs’ entire e-commerce strategy document can be accessed online.  

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