Cheap Knockoffs and Online Security for Teens

Dear Brian,
How do I stop the Chinese cheap knockoffs (made in mass production) of my designs?

I do not manufacture in China but the European side if Istanbul. They must of ordered a suit from me and made copies and are using my photos on Alibaba and Aliexpress and it spread all over the web shops and chinese shop of Europe. How do I stop this?

The problem with America is nothing is made here anymore. All we do is source the cheapest materials from overseas and slap our label on it.

I’ve spent the last couple years working the trade show and expo circuit, attending major events on the west coast across a variety of industries (solar, mobile tech, food, vaping, consumer tech, video games, pro stage, cannabis, recreation, etc).

In each of these industries, the story is the same – there are small businesses with a passion for the product and there are green-rushers. The passionate SMB’s create quality products and build a reputation among consumers, whereas green-rushers source the cheapest parts to make knockoffs.

At CTIA Super Mobility Week there were hundreds of phone manufacturers – can you name any besides Samsung, Apple, LG, and HTC? There wasn’t a single product from industrial cell towers and smart city applications to phone cases, batteries, and VR headsets where there weren’t already at least a dozen competitors in the space.

At the Electronics Entertainment Expo, everyone had a video game about everything. Toys-2-Life (plastic toys you can play with in the real world containing a chip that can load them into a video game) and VR were the rage, and everyone had a version of them to make money. Also so many cheap accessories were being promoted, it becomes a blur.

At the Cannabis Cup, cannabis is a commodity, so everyone was essentially marketing the same dozen or so products made for and around that commodity.

No matter where I went, everyone was marketing the same stuff the same ways. With so many options, the market naturally determines what survives, and that’s typically quality products.

The little I know of fashion stems from seeing the global textile manufacturers (and a bit of the retail and design side) at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. More than design, it looks like the functionality of the fabric and quality of stitching are the most important factors in any garments.

If you want to protect your brand, you have to find ways to beat your competition in marketing. You have to learn to think like a shark and stay on top of things.

Because even Beats is just a shoddy ripoff design with metal weights inserted to add perceived value: How It’s Made Series: Beats By Dre — Bolt Blog

And even Beats gets counterfeited in China: How It’s Made Series: Yup, Our Beats Were Counterfeit (But They Cost About the Same to Make as… — Bolt Blog

Dear Brian,
My parents are trying to get into all my online accounts without my permission by guessing my passwords. Do you have any advice for keeping my parents out?

They recently went to a “suicide prevention” assembly for parents, which was less suicide prevention (a great cause) and more of a thinly veiled excuse to monitor their kids with paranoia levels approaching NSA.

Things the school suggested:
– “cleaning” our rooms to find contraband (cigarettes, razor blades, etc., things I don’t have)
– guessing our passwords to social media so they can “monitor” us
– forming a little Parent Spy Coalition (not their words) to spy on entire friend groups. I mean, it’s one thing if my parents monitor every online move, but do my friend’s parents need to know too?

I don’t really have anything to hide, but it bothers me that they’re doing this (well, attempting to) without my permission. They’ll probably get access somehow, but I want to put up as much as a fight as possible. (Petty and teenager-esque, I know.) I also value privacy and feel like I should be afforded it.

My parents, who believe that the government shouldn’t interfere with their business, feel like it’s acceptable to violate my privacy to “keep me safe,” when I have never showed signs of being suicidal, depressed, or self-harming.

I’ve tried to tell them that I have nothing to hide and that I think I deserve privacy, but they insist that having nothing to hide should mean I don’t care. Maybe it should, and me fighting against relinquishing my passwords has made the whole situation worse. Either way, I don’t think it’s fair that they’re mad because the NSA monitors them but they’re allowed to monitor me.

As I said, it’s one thing if my parents spy on my habits, which is borderline acceptable. What bothers me the most is that the meeting said that sharing that with other parents is also okay, and knowing my parents (and their habit to treat me like I don’t deserve privacy, online or at home) they will share it with other parents. For “the good of the kids,” of course.

Set up two-step authentication. You’ll be able to download Google Authenticator on your phone. It’s an app that randomly generates a number. Even with the password, no one can log in without physical possession of your phone. It’s a pain, but it’s the same security (well, one step anyway) used by banks.

Twitter and Facebook allow the same, though they’ll text you a confirmation code. You can pretty much lock yourself out of Instagram so long as you have Facebook (so use an impossible password).

Also check your devices for key logging software, and don’t log into any of those accounts on your home network. Your parents own it and can monitor your traffic. Go to Home Depot, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, a friend’s house, school, or anywhere else to log in to these accounts, and log out all devices. Then set up two-step authentication and change your password.

Then set up a VPN and proxy somewhere offsite (preferably on a friend’s computer). This will route all your encrypted network traffic through their network, so your parents can’t monitor it anymore without gaining access to your physical devices.

Remove any personal info from these accounts. Your parents know everything about you and can guess the security questions to reset your password unless you can train yourself to memorize joke answers to things like pet name school, etc.

See how they like that 🙂

Brian Penny shades whistleblower anonymousBrian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in Fast Company, High Times, Lifehack, DumbLittleMan, Huffington Post, Hardcore Droid, Main Street, and your mom.


Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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