Microsoft taking phishers to court

Microsoft is taking legal action against three groups in the region as part of a string of proceedings to sue more than 100 phishers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  March 26, 2006

Microsoft is taking legal action against three groups in the region as part of a string of proceedings to sue more than 100 phishers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. A group hosting a bogus website in Jordan, another hosting a site in Egypt and a third hosting a site in Saudi Arabia are all suspected of operating fraudulently, Microsoft claimed. The company said 53 legal actions — including the one in Egypt — had already begun against phishers who allegedly created phoney websites to lure people into sharing their personal data. It said another 51 legal actions, including ones against the groups hosting websites in Jordan and Saudi, would start by the end of June. Microsoft said legal proceedings would include formal complaints, action in courts and settlements against serious criminals engaged in phishing crime. Countries in which action was being taken also include Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Sweden and the UK. Microsoft said it could not comment on the cases in either Jordan and Saudi Arabia because proceedings had not yet begun, but said the Egyptian case involved a website that was impersonating Microsoft’s popular Hotmail site. “A website has been set up spoofing Microsoft’s Hotmail login site and phished login and passwords from Hotmail users,” said a Microsoft spokesman. “After a first series of informal checks in order to try to get more information on the identity of the phisher, a letter was sent on October 26 to the Egyptian hosting provider requesting their assistance in identifying and stopping the phisher in question.” The spokesman continued: “The hosting ISP ignored the letter and did not respond. On January 24, 2006, a court notice was sent to the host ISP requesting their assistance. Legal action is still pending.” The legal actions are part of the Global Phishing Enforcement Initiative, which was launched at a joint press conference on March 20 between Microsoft, Interpol, EuroISPA and the European Internet Service Providers Association. Microsoft said it launched the campaign to coordinate and expand its anti-phishing efforts. “The legal action we take for each case will be decided on a case-by-case basis,” said Neil Holloway, Microsoft EMEA pre- sident, in a statement on the firm’s website. “It could be settlements we’re going after, it could be criminal lawsuits depending on the seriousness of the phishing efforts. Along with the ones that we have already identified for Europe, Microsoft is also pursuing phishers in the US,” the statement continued. Holloway added that phishing undermined consumers’ trust in the internet and was an impediment to policy-makers’ and industries’ efforts to boost citizens’ use of internet services. “We would like to see a decline in the number of sites hosted in the regions where we are launching lawsuits. This is not a one-off event and we are looking to sustain our level of discussion and activities around phishing,” he went on to add. The company to date has led the takedown of 4,744 phishing sites worldwide, and last spring it filed 117 phishing lawsuits in the US. Microsoft said it had also traced 59 individual phishers back to the countries in which they currently lived. Two of them live in Saudi Arabia. At least one of the pair, the company said, apparently hosts his site from abroad. “We see that phishers tend to host their site in a country which has a common history with their own country. A number of phishing sites hosted in France trace ba- ck to Morocco or Algeria, and we see a similar pattern betw- een German speaking countries and Turkey,” a spokesman said.

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