The unit has a strategy to go after the payment systems these criminal syndicates use to gather the money they steal. MacNaughton says the unit tracked payments to a range of illegal sites to just a dozen payment accounts, then worked with the legitimate organizations such as PayPal or Visa to cut off the payments. "We shut down their ability to profit," she says.
DCU helps fight the proliferation of child pornography on the Internet with technology called PhotoDNA, which hashes pornographic images and identifies hash signatures that can be compared automatically to hashes of images found on the Internet. It doesn't require a person to view the images. Facebook, for example, uses PhotoDNA to detect child pornography images uploaded to its accounts so it can remove them.
The original DCU, before its merger with the IP Crimes Unit, has been credited with crippling Waledac, Rustock, Kelihos, Zeus, Nitol and Citadel botnets.
Last year DCU had a dedicated staff of 11, but with the IPCU merger that has been expanded to about 100. In addition to the Cybercrime Center, the unit has 12 other crime labs around the world that are spokes to the center's hub.
DCU's legal team has applied laws some of which were written before cybercrime existed to crimes committed on the Internet. The team's successes have resulted in court orders that have let Microsoft seize servers and control of domains that are used to support criminal activities.
The idea for the center stemmed from a visit Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith made to South Korea's national cybercrime headquarters. He saw a mismatch between the broad experience of Microsoft's experts and the tools available to them. The center attempts to remedy that, Microsoft says.
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