Microsoft's stepping up its effort against online crime lately by sending its own employees to accompany U.S. marshals in federal raids of facilities that are suspected of participating in one of the nastier methods of cybercrime: botnets.
A profile in the New York Times today on Richard Boscovich, Microsoft's senior lawyer in the company's digital crimes unit, offers a glimpse into the company's increased vigilance in policing the online world by taking the fight offline. Boscovich is credited with creating Microsoft's branch of law enforcement as an effort to watch over "fraud that could affect the company's products and reputation." In what sounds more like Law & Order: The Microsoft Unit than something you'd expect from the maker of Windows operating systems, the Times describes a recent government raid in Pennsylvania aimed at taking down botnets:
With a warrant in hand from a federal judge authorizing the sweep, the Microsoft lawyers and technical personnel gathered evidence and deactivated Web servers ostensibly used by criminals in a scheme to infect computers and steal personal data. At the same time, Microsoft seized control of hundreds of Web addresses that it says were used as part of the same scheme.
Although companies like Google and Apple tend to dominate most tech headlines these days, Microsoft's Windows is still the most used operating system around the world among internet users, which has the unfortunate side effect of making it the most likely target for botnets. While Microsoft continues to offer up patches and security upgrades for its users, the company has also endorsed recent legislation like the Anti-Bot Code of Conduct for Internet Service Providers. Taking on cyber criminals in the first-life world suggests Microsoft doesn't feel like waiting around for the law's delay to start hindering botnets and bot-herders, criminals that utilize botnets.
In what I imagine sounded like a Batman growl unintentionally slipping into a press interview with Bruce Wayne, Boscovich said that the purpose of the raids was to send a message to cyber criminals. “We’re letting them know we’re looking at them,” said Mr. Boscovich.