The suits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, it is claimed that the defendants have used mass email or pop-ups to dupe users into revealing personal information. Microsoft hoped by filing the "John Doe" suits it can identify the people behind the phishing scams that have been targeting its MSN and Hotmail websites.
Microsoft attorney Aaron Kornblum told Reuters: "We must work together to stop these con artists from misusing the Internet as a tool for fraud."
The company is using trademark law (the Lanham Act) to catch the scammers who have been using its trademarks in email messages and fake websites.
Analysts believe this action will only make a difference to scammers located in the US.
"The real point of this is the risk to corporate reputation." Said Fran Howorth, Practice Leader at Bloor Research. "Microsoft is the biggest target of viruses and it is hardly surprising that it is now the target of phishing attacks as it is so widespread among both consumers and businesses."
According to the latest Phishing Trends report from Anti-phishing Working Group, (reported in SC here) more phishing emails have ceased to rely on tricking users to divulge information via social engineering. Phishers are now turning to malicious code to point user's computers to pharming websites.
As reported by SC Magazine in February, Phishers had been using Microsoft's Genuine Advantage Program as a cover to defraud email users of money.