New Microsoft portal will help cops

Software giant plans Web site to arm law enforcement officials worldwide with tips and training for fighting cybercrime.

MONTEREY, Calif.--Expanding its efforts to help law enforcement with cybercrime investigations, Microsoft plans in the coming months to launch a new online resource.

The Web site will include training, tips and tools for investigations and information on cybercrime, Richard LaMagna, director of worldwide law enforcement programs at Microsoft, said in an interview with CNET News.com on Wednesday at the annual High Technology Crime Investigation Association event here.

"We want to help law enforcement develop the capability to deal with these cybercrime problems," said LaMagna, a former federal agent. "We believe it is important for private industry to support law enforcement, particularly with cybercrime. It is not the kind of thing the FBI, NYPD or customs agents can do on their own."

Microsoft's online training will include simple forensic skills--for example, guidance on digging up information on the hard drive of a seized Windows PC, and basic online investigation techniques such as trace routes and Whois domain database lookups, LaMagna said.

"There are still a lot of law enforcement people out there who don't know how to trace an IP address or an Internet domain," he said.

Other information on the Web site will include details on recent legislation. Microsoft also plans to offer specialized technical support to investigators.

Microsoft already is active in helping law enforcement. For example, the company has hosted two multiday training sessions on botnets in the past year, one in the United States and one in Europe. A third session is scheduled for October at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus, LaMagna said.

Botnets are networks of hijacked computers that are typically used for criminal activity. Criminals have used botnets for sending spam, spreading malicious code, launching denial-of-service attacks and extortion attempts, according to security experts. Microsoft's new portal will offer a software tool to help detect botnets, LaMagna said.

The "Law Enforcement Portal" also will have contact details for people within Microsoft who deal with requests from the authorities, LaMagna said. These could be requests for information on Hotmail users, for example, he said.

Educating law enforcement is only part of Microsoft's efforts to fight cybercrime. The company also has its own team of about 50 investigators. Intelligence gathered by this "Internet Safety Enforcement" group has helped track down the suspected creators of the recent Zotob worm, among other cybercriminals.

Microsoft also is active in fighting spammers in court. And it introduced a computer system designed to let police agencies share information for tracking online child predators.

The new Law Enforcement Portal should be online by November, LaMagna said. The site will initially be in English only, but there are plans to translate it into other languages. Access will be limited to law enforcement officials.

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