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Microsoft Cybercrime Center helps fight online crimes worldwide

Members of Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit work in the forensics lab in the company’s new Cybercrime Center in Redmond. - Courtesy of Microsoft
Members of Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit work in the forensics lab in the company’s new Cybercrime Center in Redmond.
— image credit: Courtesy of Microsoft

In an effort to help advance the global fight against cybercrime, Microsoft Corp. has created the Microsoft Cybercrime Center.

The center opened last week and is located on the tech company’s Redmond campus.

Within the center is a Digital Crimes Unit (DCU), which is made up of an international team that works with industry partners to help create a safe digital world.

“The team applies legal and technical expertise to keep the Internet safer for everyone by addressing malicious software crimes, IP crimes or technology-facilitated child exploitation,” said Bonnie MacNaughton, assistant general counsel for the DCU. “The center’s tools and technologies will enable DCU to more effectively work with partners to fight cybercrime.”

MacNaughton, who has worked on piracy-related issues at Microsoft for 12 years, said the Cybercrime Center brings together people with different expertise from different industries — ranging from engineers to investigators to lawyers — and equips them with “the best tools and technology available.” She added that having experts in various areas under one umbrella makes it easier for them to work together to eliminate cyberthreats when focus areas intersect, which they see occurring more frequently.

With the launch of the Cybercrime Center, the DCU produced a video stressing the importance of having such a center. The video featured individuals from Microsoft and the DCU, various law enforcement agencies (national and international) and private security companies — who said cybercriminals don’t necessarily have to be in the same country as their victims.

“Cybercrime is a truly global crime,” said Noboru Nakatani, executive director of the Global Complex for Innovation for the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol. “A transnational crime in nature that is different from what used to be.”

John Boles of the FBI’s Cyber Division added, “There’s no set boundaries for where (cybercriminals) might come from and there’s no set boundaries for where they might attack.”

The idea for the Cybercrime Center stemmed from a visit Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, made to South Korea’s national cybercrime headquarters. Smith, who was also featured in the DCU video, said criminals are getting more sophisticated on figuring out how to exploit the Internet in order to harm others.

“I think that we are at a critical moment in time,” he said. “In part, it’s because the problem is getting worse. Now at the same time, our technology is getting much more sophisticated. And it was clear, this was the time to make sure that we harnessed the power of that technology so that we have the most powerful ability in the world to fight crime on the Internet.”

MacNaughton said the Cybercrime Center was designed with various partners in mind. For example, this year and last year, in joint operations with the FBI, Interpol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations, Scotland Yard and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, they shut down more than 20,000 illegal online pharmacies selling dangerous counterfeit drugs that were identified through the Microsoft SitePrint tool.

MacNaughton said Cybercrime Center teams work to help agencies solve crimes after they happen as well as work to prevent cybercrimes from happening in the first place.

“The center features the latest in high-tech security measures,” she said. “It is outfitted with forensics technologies and tools that enable employees and partners to be able to see the real-time footprint of cybercrime threats around the world firsthand. It features working cybercrime labs, operations and training rooms and secured space for our partners.”

According to a press release issued by Microsoft, the secured facility houses Microsoft technologies that allow the team to visualize and identify global cyberthreats developing in real time, including SitePrint, which allows the mapping of online organized crime networks. Other technologies include PhotoDNA, for anti-child-pornography, cyberforensics, a new investigative capability that detects global cybercrime and cyberthreat intelligence from Microsoft’s botnet takedown operations. In addition, the Cybercrime Center includes a separate and secure location for third-party partners, allowing them to work in the facility with Microsoft for indefinite periods of time.

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