Microsoft targeting Asia with new cybercrime hub

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Microsoft has stepped up its fight against online crime with the opening of a new global Cybercrime Satellite Centre in Singapore.

The new centre joins Tokyo and Beijing as the third satellite in the area, and the fifth overall, as Microsoft expands upon its Washington DC and Berlin bases.

The primary aim of the new satellite will be to support the fight against online crime in a geographical area that is quickly becoming a hotbed for hackers. With a specific focus on protecting Microsoft assets, it will take aim at malware and botnets.

The facility will lend its services to Southeast Asian and Oceanic countries including India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Richard Boscovich, Microsoft’s assistant general counsel of its digital crimes unit, said:

“One of the reasons we’re opening a center, particularly here is, obviously, Singapore is one of the major financial centers in the world.

A lot of money comes through Singapore, it’s a relatively wealthy nation and criminals follow the money.

They’re in the business of stealing.”

Dedicated to fighting cybercrime

Bosco, as he prefers to be known, also explained how the team works closely with Interpol – which has a centre dedicated to fighting cybercrime located in the area – and will continue to do so when the facility officially opens in April.

Furthermore, Bosco also explained how Microsoft chose to target Asia, saying that the area was experiencing rapid growth in the IT sector, something which had the knock-on effect of amplifying the attention of hackers and other for-profit cyber criminals:

“We look at cybercriminals as business people and they follow [emerging markets] which are economically lucrative.”

He noted how many computer users in the region do not have a security mind-set, making them particularly susceptible to cybercriminals. The new facility will therefore look into region-specific malware and other threats.

The Singapore centre will run under Microsoft’s digital crimes unit, operating primarily as a support unit, according to Keshav Dhakad, Microsoft’s Asia regional director of digital crimes unit.

The tech firm’s global digital crimes unit, which works in tandem with industry partners, internet service providers and law enforcement agencies, includes more than 100 lawyers, engineers, investigators and forensic analysts, and data scientists located in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

It also works with computer emergency response teams (CERTs), offering free access to its Cyber Threat Intelligence Program that processes and analyses over 500 million transactions per day for malware infections. It also provides training for third party partners.

Singapore’s Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, S. Iswaran said the country presented a “natural target for cybercriminals” due to its status as a high volume business hub for a range of multinational companies.

He confirmed how both business and government websites had been targeted by attackers in the past few years and suggested the number of attacks could increase in the future as Singapore continues to prosper.

In welcoming the new Microsoft cybercrime satellite centre, Iswaran said:

“The sharing of expertise and information through cross-industry and public-private partnerships is a cornerstone of any effective cybersecurity ecosystem. It is critical that we create an environment of trust where networks can share intelligence expeditiously and partner organizations can discuss measures to tackle threats or prevent similar incidents from taking place”

Microsoft, meanwhile, will remain focused elsewhere even as the new hub opens for business.

Bosco highlighted China and the high rate of infection among machines in the country which he said was due, primarily, to the proliferation of pirated software, including Microsoft’s own operating systems:

“There’s a huge amount of infections within China, and the result of that from our investigative work was that it comes from an unsecured supply chain.

What happens is you’re getting a lot of people infected because of simply buying a computer with pre-installed malware. Sometimes, it’s not even that, it comes with all of the features, such as automatic updates and firewalls disabled.

The minute you put it on the Internet, even if you’re not infected, within hours you will be infected and it just cascades and you’ll see a huge amount of infections in China because of that.”

Featured image: Gajus / Dollar Photo Club

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