Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Seizes Servers In PA and IL

On Friday, Microsoft seized web servers in Pennsylvania and Indiana under a civil action authorized by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Two financial industry associations — the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the National Automated Clearing House Association — were part of the civil action.

According to the NY Times, it was Microsoft personnel who “gathered evidence and deactivated Web servers ostensibly used by criminals.”

Microsoft’s involvement in what had been considered largely a law enforcement function — fighting computer crime — is the brainchild of Richard Boscovich, a former federal prosecutor who is a senior lawyer in Microsoft’s digital crimes unit. That group watches over fraud that could affect the company’s products and reputation.

Mr. Boscovich, who handled drug, computer and financial crime cases in Miami in his former job, devised a novel legal strategy to underpin the growing number of Microsoft’s civil suits against bot-herders. Among other things, he argued that the culprits behind botnets were violating Microsoft’s trademarks through fake e-mails they used to spread their malicious software.

Mr. Boscovich said the Friday sweep was meant to send a message to the criminals behind the scheme, whose identities are unknown. “We’re letting them know we’re looking at them,” said Mr. Boscovich after participating in the Pennsylvania raid, in Scranton.

Microsoft the filed a civil suit on March 19 under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It received the warrant to seize the servers on March 23. According to CNN, “That four-day turnaround is virtually unprecedented in the fight against cybercrime.”

The Scranton Times-Tribune reports that the PA hosting company, Burst.net “has not been implicated in the botnet scheme, nor was it aware of it.” The company has nothing about the raid on its news page but it has announced hosting with Linux servers.

The other target, Continuum Data Centers, is just outside of Chicago.

At the heart of the financial crime is a botnet known as Zeus. Read the legal notice.

I don’t know what to think about this. It feels … extra-legal (which is another way to say “it feels wrong”).

If I file a civil suit against you for something, I don’t get to go into your house and look for and then seize alleged evidence said something!

Microsoft complaint against Zeus botnet operators