Microsoft gets tough on cybercriminals

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Microsoft yesterday unveiled a global law enforcement campaign aiming to bring down cybercriminal masterminds behind large-scale phishing attacks.

Neil Holloway, president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said today that the firm is aiming to have initiated legal actions on more than 100 cases in EMEA against individuals suspected of committing online fraud before June 2006. He added that 53 of these actions will have already started by the end of March 2006.

"Phishing is a crime. It undermines consumers' trust in the Internet and is an impediment to European policy-makers' and industries' efforts to boost citizens' use of innovative and valuable Internet services," Holloway said.

The legal actions are linked to a larger Microsoft program, the Global Phishing Enforcement Initiative (GPEI), launched by the company to coordinate and expand its many anti-phishing efforts worldwide to fight phishers through consumer protection, partnerships and prosecution.

"Microsoft's global phishing enforcement initiative works in partnership with law enforcement, multiple industries and governments to educate consumers, prosecute criminals and develop technology solutions to address the threat of phishing," Holloway explained.

Bernhard Otupal, crime intelligence officer with the Financial and High-Tech Crime Unit at Interpol, also spoke at the debate.

"Partnership between Interpol and Microsoft has been of immense benefit to police in Interpol's member countries, especially in relation to the training of officers in the latest technological advances," he said. "Increasing such knowledge, for example in the development of different servers and networks based on Microsoft products, can be crucial to the investigation and forensic work of police agencies around the world."

President of EuroISPA, professor Michael Rotert, added: "Phishing is a threat to all online industry stakeholders' efforts to increase the availability and takeup of online services. Hence, the partnerships that joint efforts between industry, policy-makers, law enforcement and consumers create and strengthen are really vital if our industry is to effectively counter this threat. We hope that this initiative will stimulate further stakeholders to counter phishing."

The first 53 legal actions to be brought under the GPEI in Europe, the Middle East and Africa today include legal actions against alleged phishers in Turkey, France, Spain, Morocco, the U.K., Germany, Austria, Egypt and Sweden. They will be followed by at least 51 more cases against people who have allegedly created phony web sites to lure people into sharing their personal data, such as email and passwords, credit card numbers, or bank account information. Legal proceedings will include formal complaints, action in courts and settlements against serious criminals engaged in phishing crime.

Microsoft claims that its efforts to date have led the takedown of 4,744 phishing sites worldwide. In the U.S. last spring it filed 117 phishing lawsuits.

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