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US Court Grants Microsoft Control of 99 Hacking Websites

Websites registered and used by Phosphorus include, for example, outlook-verify.net, yahoo-verify.net, verification-live.com, and myaccount-services.net

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

A US court has granted Microsoft control of 99 websites widely associated with an Iranian group that were used to conduct hacking operations globally.

The court authorised Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) to take control of the websites belonging to the group called Phosphorus (also known as APT 35, Charming Kitten and Ajax Security Team) so that these can no longer be used to execute cyber attacks.

“Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) have been tracking Phosphorus since 2013,” said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft in a blog post late Wednesday.

Its activity is usually designed to gain access to the computer systems of businesses and government agencies and steal sensitive information.

“Its targets also include activists and journalists – especially those involved in advocacy and reporting on issues related to the Middle East,” Burt added.

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

Phosphorus typically attempts to compromise the personal accounts of individuals through a technique known as spear-phishing, using social engineering to entice someone to click on a link, sometimes sent through fake social media accounts that appear to belong to friendly contacts.

The link contains malicious software that enables Phosphorus to access computer systems.

“Phosphorus also uses a technique, whereby it sends people an email that makes it seem as if there’s a security risk to their accounts, prompting them to enter their credentials into a web form that enables the group to capture their passwords and gain access to their systems,” Burt informed.

Also Read- British Cybersecurity Inspect Major Technical Issues in Huawei’s Software

Websites registered and used by Phosphorus include, for example, outlook-verify.net, yahoo-verify.net, verification-live.com, and myaccount-services.net.

“The action we executed last week enabled us to take control of 99 websites and redirect traffic from infected devices to our Digital Crime Unit’s sinkhole,” said Microsoft. (IANS)

Next Story

Microsoft Knockout: Why AWS CEO Must not Lose His Cool

Currently, 7,000 government agencies, 10,000 academic institutions and 25,000 nonprofits are using various AWS services worldwide

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

BY NISHANT ARORA

As the CEO of a $36 billion enterprise that leads the global infrastructure Cloud market with over 175 services — more than any other Cloud vendor — Andy Jassy is deeply hurt at the Microsoft’s $10 billion Pentagon Cloud win and is leaving no stone unturned to criticise the company, despite knowing the fact that a “significant political interference” killed the chances of Amazon Web Services (AWS) which was a favourite to seal the deal.

At the AWS “re: Invent” conference attended by over 60,000 people in Las Vegas last week, Jassy went after the Satya Nadella-run company at several occasions, criticising its licensing practices and making a pitch for open-source Linux operating system over Windows.

Limiting the attack on its old Cloud rival Oracle in just one slide during his keynote presentation, Jassy’s target was Microsoft all over, and the aim was to begin strides towards $3.7 trillion enterprise IT market where Microsoft has a lion’s share.

“If you look at Windows, 57 per cent of Windows in the Cloud runs on AWS operating system rather than Azure. You see this return to the ways of old from Microsoft where they’re not prioritising what matters to you guys, the customers. People are sick and tired of being pawns in this game,” said the AWS CEO.

Surprisingly, Jassy did not attack Microsoft Azure directly but its Windows and SQL Server software in the Cloud using existing licenses.

Later in the news conference, he again touched upon the subject and slammed Microsoft, this time clearly citing “significant political interference” in the US government’s decision to award the JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure) contract to Microsoft.

If we look at the facts, there is not stopping Windows.

More than four years after its release, Windows 10 has passed 50 per cent in market share, meaning every other desktop computer is now running Microsoft’s latest operating system.

Windows (including older versions) has a massive 87.8 per cent global share while Linux has a poor 1.72 per cent market share worldwide. Mac OS has over 10 per cent market share globally.

Microsoft has revealed that there were more than 900 million devices running on Windows 10 and the company is edging closer to its 1 billion mark by 2020.

Riding on its commercial Cloud and Office business, Microsoft posted $33.1 billion in revenue with $10.7 billion in net income (an increase of 21 per cent) for its first quarter of fiscal year 2020.

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AWS is the Cloud arm of retail giant Amazon. Pixabay

Revenue in Intelligent Cloud was $10.8 billion and increased 27 per cent. Server products and cloud services revenue increased 30 per cent, driven by Azure revenue growth of 59 per cent.

Office Commercial products and cloud services revenue increased 13 per cent, driven by Office 365 Commercial revenue growth of 25 per cent.

On the other hand, Jassy thinks that in 2020, about 80 per cent of the workloads deployed will be Linux workloads.

“We see a lot of monetisation decisions around moving Windows to Linux. And this has been happening for several years now. There’s such a vibrant community around Linux and we’re finding that all the features and all the security things happen much quicker than with OS like Windows,” Jassy told the gathering.

The truth is: His public rant against Microsoft’s enterprise IT business does not hold good as it is way ahead in this business than AWS.

AWS’s forte is Cloud and related domains where Microsoft Azure is fast growing.

AWS now spans 69 Availability Zones within 22 geographic regions around the world and has announced plans for 13 more Availability Zones and four more AWS Regions in Indonesia, Italy, South Africa and Spain.

According to Gartner’s Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market segment share globally, AWS is far ahead in this segment with 47.8 per cent share, followed by Microsoft at 15.5 per cent, Alibaba at 7.7 per cent and Google at a mere 4 per cent.

Also Read: Upcoming iPhone SE 2 Likely to be Called as ‘iPhone 9’

Currently, 7,000 government agencies, 10,000 academic institutions and 25,000 nonprofits are using various AWS services worldwide.

Jassy just needs to be doing where he is good at: Reinventing new Cloud strategies.

Entering OS or other business verticals where Microsoft is a distinguished leader won’t serve any purpose, that too because one big Cloud deal has been lost owing to “a sitting US President who is willing to share openly his disdain for a company and the leader of that company” and not because Microsoft was a better option than AWS. (IANS)