TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Microsoft Sues 129 Phishers

Microsoft Sues 129 Phishers

Reuters News Wire (
Wed, 22 Nov 2006 15:44:07 -0600

Microsoft brings 129 lawsuits against phishers

Microsoft is helping law enforcers hunt down criminals who try to
steal bank account details on the Internet and has initiated 129
lawsuits in Europe and the Middle East, the software company said.

One court case in Turkey has already led to a 2.5-year prison sentence
for a so-called "phisher" in Turkey, and another four cases against
teenagers have been settled out of court, Microsoft said on Wednesday,
eight months after it announced the launch of a Global Phishing
Enforcement Initiative in March.

"Sometimes we initiate our own legal action, but more importantly we
work with law enforcement agencies," said Nancy Anderson, deputy
general counsel at the software company.

Of the 129 lawsuits that have been initiated, 97 are criminal
procedures in which Microsoft and other technology companies have
provided information.

The announcement was made at a European Union conference on identity
theft in Brussels.

Phishing has mushroomed over the last few years, with the number of
attempts to trick citizens into handing over their bank account
details almost doubling in the first half of 2006 to 157,000,
according to a recent report from security software vendor Symantec.

The total amount of damages from phishing is expected to be $2.8
billion in 2006 alone, research group Gartner estimates.

Phishers send emails, in which they pretend to be a financial
institution or other legitimate organization, asking people to verify
personal information such as account numbers and passwords.

"Like most other cases of fraud, they prey on people's behavior,"
Anderson said.

They also scour social networking sites and personal Web sites looking
for personal information.


While criminal complaints are aimed at what Microsoft believes to be
real criminals, the civil lawsuits are aimed mainly at young people
without criminal intent. For them, settlements of 1,000 to 2,000 euros
($1,290-$2,570) are deemed to be enough of a deterrent, Microsoft

"It's certainly enough to make their parents very angry," a spokesman

Microsoft can initiate civil lawsuits even when it is not the target
of identity theft, because legal systems in many countries allow
anyone suffering from attacks to claim damages.

"There are damages to our ability to conduct business. There are
damages to our trust with the consumer," Anderson said.

The U.S. company has an investigative team at its headquarters in
Redmond, Washington, which uses Web-crawling software and customer
complaints to find out where attacks are taking place. Old-fashioned
investigative techniques are then used to discover the identity of the

Before legal action was taken, 253 cases were investigated. Most of
the investigations and 50 of the criminal complaints were filed in
Turkey. Germany was second with 28 criminal complaints and France
third with 11.

Britain led the civil orders with 18 out of a total 32.

Cases were also filed in Dubai, Italy, Morocco and the Netherlands.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.

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