UK company I-B-Net has launched Homer, a multi-lingual Web surveillance package for monitoring fraud.

I-B-Net claims that up to 35 per cent of goods sold online in 1999 were counterfeit. Homer uses an Internet technology called, 'Spiders' – the technology used in search.

Homer also uses 'software agents', these have slightly different properties than spiders, and can be configured to download text, or follow other instructions once certain criteria are met, for example sending an email to the offending Webmaster, or to the firm it is set to protect.

Most conventional search engines, such as Lycos, Yahoo! and AltaVista, only read between three and five per cent of the global Web network, all combined search only 15 per cent of the Web. Homer, it’s claimed, because it is multi-lingual and specialized, searches almost the entire Internet, seeking fraudulent brands, spoof Web sites and other forms of Internet abuse.

Other potential applications for this premium-priced (£60,000 per year) Web detective include keeping tabs on MP3 sites, and watching competitive businesses and their Internet strategies. Additionally, the core technology of Homer is used within many government agencies - including the CIA, MoD, Customs & Excise and Police forces.