Digital Edition

Microsoft Going Phishing; Uses Trademark Law to Chase Purported Online Scammers
Redmond's Aim is to Stop Phishing Scams that use Microsoft's Name

Microsoft has recently filed more than 100 lawsuits against individuals it thinks have created websites that misuse the Microsoft name in phishing scame designed to extract information out of unwitting victims.

The company is claiming trademark violations on behalf of the alledged perpetrators, in an approach similar to going after traditional organized crime from the mail fraud or tax fraud angle. There are no laws explicitly outlawing phishing, and it's been proven difficult to nail high numbers of online scammers through anti-spam or identity-theft laws, so Microsoft has apparently opted to wield a cudgel that it thinks will put a crimp into this activity.

Microsoft's actions are civil suits, not criminal allegations. But the company has been able in the past to nail at least one person, Jayson Harris, with a big civil judgement, so has some precedent on its side.

Phishing has emerged as a far more malignant form of Internet scamming than simple spamming. Whereas spamming is generally regarded as an annoyance and a waster of resources, phishing scams actively attempt to procure private information with the presumed intent of stealing money from private accounts. A multi-part story in the San Francisco Chronicle about phishing scames noted that the perpetrators operate throughout the world, often in loosely organized rings involving multiple locations and sophisticated covering of their own tracks.

A brief survey of savvy Internet users in the Bay Area conducted by this reporter showed, ironically, that Microsoft has not been one of the companies affected by most phishing scams. Financial institutions such as Citibank and Washington Mutual were most cited, along with e-commerce giant EBay and its PayPal subsidiary. Calls for comment to these institutions have gone unanswered so far.

But it may be of some relief to potential phishing victims that the Redmond giant is striking a blow on their behalf. If Microsoft thinks phishing is a problem, then it's a problem.

About Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

About Security News Desk
SYS-CON's Security News desk trawls the world of security for news of software, hardware, products, and services that seems likely to be of interest to infosec professionals and summarizes them for easy assimilation by busy IT managers and staff.

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