Microsoft has begun waging a war overseas against "phishers," perpetrators who steal money by using the Internet to trick people into giving up their personal information.
Neil Holloway, president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said at an Interpol technology debate in Brussels, Belgium that by the end of June 2006 it will have initiated legal actions on more than 100 cases in EMEA against individuals suspected of committing online fraud.
The Redmond, Wash., giant, which has added anti-phishing filters to its IE browser software, said that 53 of these legal actions will go against alleged phishers in Turkey, France, Spain, Morocco, the U.K., Germany, Austria, Egypt and Sweden before the end of the month.
They will be followed by at least 51 more cases throughout EMEA. The legal proceedings will include formal complaints, court actions and settlements.
"Phishing is a crime," Holloway said in a statement. "It undermines consumers' trust in the Internet and is an impediment to European policy-makers' and industries' efforts to boost citizens' use of innovative and valuable Internet services."
Phishing is a popular e-mail scam in which perpetrators send e-mails to computer users with links to fake Web sites, pretending to be a legitimate business. They typically request personal information, such as social security numbers or credit card digits.
If the user links to the site and supplies the information, the perpetrator will usually use that information to make purchases in their name, sapping money from their bank accounts, or racking up credit card charges.
Phishers have used popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay and PayPal as the fronts for their scams because where such popular places are where users are likely to have an account.
According to the Anti-phishing Working Group, there were 15,244 phishing reports mad e in December 2005, spanning 121 brands.
Microsoft's latest legal actions are linked to a larger program, the Global Phishing Enforcement Initiative (GPEI), launched by the company to expand its anti-phishing efforts worldwide.
Under the GPEI, Microsoft said it filed 117 phishing lawsuits in the U.S. last spring and took down 4,744 phishing sites worldwide.
The software giant is undertaking similar actions against software pirates -- those who illegally copy and sell Microsoft software on the Internet.
Last week, the company announced eight lawsuits against alleged software pirates who sold counterfeit Microsoft software on eBay. Those actions came a week after Microsoft formed the Genuine Software Initiative to fight piracy.