May, 2010

  • Keeping Clicks Real

    Posted by Tim Cranton 
    Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit

    Online advertising fuels much of the Internet activity we enjoy today,  enabling free services and unprecedented content flows.  For this marketplace to continue enabling rich online experiences, it needs to be based on a trusted platform.  Advertisers need to have confidence they are getting what they pay for. 

    Unfortunately, deceitful online activity known as ‘click fraud’ undermines the integrity of the online advertising market, skewing the platform decidedly against advertisers.  For this reason, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has been working with Microsoft Advertising and others in the online advertising space to identify and address fraud as it evolves.  Towards that end, Microsoft this week filed two federal lawsuits against perpetrators of what we believe to be a new and complex form of click fraud that we refer to as “click laundering.”

    Click fraud typically occurs when a person or computer program imitates a legitimate Web surfer and clicks on an online ad for the purpose of generating a fraudulent “charge-per-click,” without having any interest in the target of the ad’s link.

    Click laundering is a technically-advanced form of click fraud designed to circumvent fraud detection systems by hiding the origins of fraudulent clicks – “laundering” them through apparently legitimate intermediaries.

    One form of click laundering involves computers infected with malicious software that delivers rogue search results.  Without the user’s knowledge, the infected computer mimics a legitimate search engine, but returns search results adulterated with useless parked domains – i.e., Web addresses that appear to be relevant search results, but contain no meaningful content. The unwitting user opens one of the parked domains, clicks a link or two, realizes it’s not what he or she is looking for and closes the window.  What seems like a harmless digital dead end is, in fact, a laundered ad click that appears legitimate  to an ad platform provider such as Microsoft but offers  no value to the advertiser  who would be charged for it.

  • Unlocking the Promise of the Cloud in Government

    Posted by Brad Smith 
    Senior Vice President and General Counsel

    Over the past few months, starting with my January speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., I’ve talked a lot about the great potential for cloud computing to increase the efficiency and productivity of governments, businesses and individual consumers. To realize those benefits, we need to establish regulatory and industry protections that give computer users confidence in the privacy and security of cloud data.

    Today, I returned to Washington to continue the discussion as one of the plenary speakers at the Gov 2.0 Expo 2010.

    As I shared during my presentation, we are constantly seeing powerful new evidence of the value of cloud computing.

    Today, for example, we announced that the University of Arizona chose Microsoft’s cloud platform to facilitate communications and collaboration among the school’s 18,000 faculty and staff.   After initially looking at various supposedly “free” online services, the institution selected Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite to update its aging e-mail system and to provide new calendaring and collaboration tools.  U. of A. officials concluded that, as a research university that conducts $530 million in research annually, it needed the enterprise-level security and privacy protections that BPOS could provide, but which the alternative services could not match.

  • Elevate America, Now in 32 States and DC

    Posted by Pamela Passman
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    With the addition of Louisiana and Ohio today, 32 states and the District of Columbia have now joined Elevate America, an initiative we launched 15 months ago to provide people across the United States with access to no-cost technology training and certification that helps them find employment. So far, we’ve offered more than 800,000 free training and certification vouchers through our partnerships with Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

    We’ve learned a lot from working with these states. They’re each facing complex economic challenges, but it’s very encouraging to see how hard they’re working to reduce unemployment. Elevate America is designed to help by strengthening workforce skills, specifically the computer skills that half of today’s jobs require, and that will be required by an estimated 77 percent of new jobs created in the next decade. Of course, computer skills are just one set of skills that people need to find employment, yet we’re already seeing firsthand how important access to these skills can be.

  • Scareware Indictments Put Cybercriminals on Notice

    Posted by Tim Cranton
    Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit
     
    Today the FBI announced federal indictments returned against three culprits charged with disseminating a major malware scheme believed to have caused $100 million in losses to victims worldwide. The scheme revolved around a form of malware called “scareware,” which falsely persuades consumers that they need to purchase useless and expensive software to protect their computers. Microsoft is proud to have supported the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice in these cases, which send a clear and important message to cyber-criminals that they will be caught and brought to justice.
     
    The scheme in these indictments was global, complex and sophisticated. The scareware went by various names, including WinFixer – meant to mislead consumers into associating the bogus software with trusted Microsoft products. At one time, WinFixer and its variants are thought to have been responsible for 75 percent of scareware worldwide.

  • Corporate Counsel Names Microsoft Best Legal Department of 2010

    Posted by David Bowermaster 
    Administrator, Microsoft on the Issues

    For the past five years Corporate Counsel magazine has conducted an annual review to identify the country’s top in-house legal teams.  This week, we were pleased to learn that Corporate Counsel has named Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs the Best Legal Department of 2010.

    Corporate Counsel has published a lengthy story online that reviews many of the accomplishments and challenges overcome by Microsoft’s legal team in recent years, many of which will be familiar to frequent readers of this blog.  The online content package includes a video interview with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, as well as commentary from Corporate Counsel Executive Editor Brian Zabcik on the magazine’s selection process and the editors’ reasons for naming Microsoft this year’s winner.

    Folks in Redmond are feeling both honored and humbled by Corporate Counsel’s accolades and want to congratulate their fellow honorees in the legal departments at Discover Financial Services, Hewlett-Packard Company and The Williams Companies.

  • Addressing the Plight of Refugees

    Posted by Pamela Passman
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    Earlier today I attended the 2010 Voices of Courage Awards luncheon in New York hosted by the Women's Refugee Commission, an organization that advocates for laws, policies and programs to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee and displaced women and young people.

    The Women’s Refugee Commission emerged a decade ago as a leading advocate for protection of women and unaccompanied children in the United States. The Commission identified the need for legal representation for the thousands of children who were appearing in U.S. immigration court without a lawyer, despite the formal proceedings and the sometimes life-and-death consequences of the judge’s ruling. The Commission has also undertaken incredible work developing and identifying economic opportunities for refugee women and children. We share a common belief that providing sustained social and economic opportunities for underserved populations, especially young people, is key to building thriving communities and a better world.

    During the event a number of incredible stories of how people and organizations are working to address the refugee issue were showcased.

    Among those recognized was Amalia Guzmán Molina, who is originally from El Salvador and founded Families of the Incarcerated, which works with the families of those who have been detained by immigration services in the United States. Also honored was Deogratias Niyizonkiza, who was born in Burundi and spent time in the United States before setting up Village Health Works, a non-profit organization providing free health care in Burundi to more than 28,000 patients, many of them refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

  • The Cyber Threat - Deconstructing the Problem to Promote Comprehensive Dialogue and Action

    Posted by Scott Charney Corporate Vice President, Trustworthy Computing It is clear to most that the Internet, and related technology advancements, provides significant benefits for individuals, enterprises and governments. However, as global connectivity...
  • Reducing Student Dropout Rates

    Posted by Anthony Salcito 
    Vice President, Worldwide Education

    Anthony Salcito
    Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Education

    Six years ago in the Western Heights School District near Oklahoma City, nearly half of all students were dropping out before they could graduate. This was unacceptable, Superintendent Joe Kitchens decided, and began looking for a solution. He thought that by collecting data -- such as grades, attendance, socio-economic factors and other variables -- his teachers and counselors could better understand what was happening with students, why they would suddenly disengage and lose interest in class, and then proactively intervene with specialized programs to keep more students in school. The district deployed a new data system for tracking student progress, and today, Western Heights has reduced its dropout rate from 45 percent to 21 percent -- an amazing accomplishment. 

    I’m lucky enough to have traveled to hundreds of schools around the United States over the years. Nearly everywhere I’ve been, reducing high-school drop-out rates has been one of the leading educational challenges. About 26 percent of incoming high school freshman will not graduate high school on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And the overall graduation rate has changed little over the last three decades, despite advances in curriculum and teaching methods.

  • Protecting Privacy in the Cloud

    Posted by Annmarie Levins
    Associate General Counsel

    Today  I am testifying  before a House Judiciary Subcommittee that is contemplating reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), an important but increasingly outdated law passed by Congress in 1986.  Microsoft is part of a broad coalition that supports modernization of the legislation.  ECPA regulates whether and how law enforcement can compel third-party telecommunications and Internet service providers to disclose user account information and customers’ stored communications.  ECPA was originally designed to strike a balance between the legitimate needs of law enforcement, the burdens on service providers in responding to government demands for data and the public’s reasonable expectation of privacy. 

    In the nearly quarter-century since ECPA became law, the balance has shifted between the rights of users and law enforcement.  Technological advancements—rather than decisions by Congress—have put more of our sensitive personal information within the reach of law enforcement. 

    As our General Counsel Brad Smith stated in his speech at the Brookings Institution in January, Microsoft believes that now is a critical time to address these issues.  We are on the cusp of a potentially transformative age in Internet-based “cloud computing.”  Cloud computing services have the potential to increase efficiencies for businesses and government, lower IT costs, create energy savings and spur innovative job-creating enterprises.  They can enable small and medium-sized businesses, individual entrepreneurs and other innovators to tap into computing resources that previously had been available only to the largest companies.  These capabilities can help drive innovation, make American  businesses more competitive and ultimately contribute to economic growth. 

    But unless we are able to preserve and protect users’ privacy, the potential of cloud computing will not be fulfilled.  This is one reason Microsoft has joined a broad coalition of advocacy groups, technology companies, and academics in the launch of the Digital Due Process Coalition.  This Coalition is focused on updating ECPA to account for the profound changes in technology over the last two decades and to ensure that users’ legitimate expectations of privacy are respected while also fulfilling the needs of law enforcement. 

  • The Nexus between Privacy and Responsible Innovation

    Posted by Peter Cullen
    Chief Privacy Strategist

    Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce is holding a symposium in Washington, D.C. to examine the important nexus between privacy and innovation in the online world.  The meeting, hosted by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, is part of the department’s recently announced comprehensive review of Information Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy.

    I have been invited to participate on a panel at today’s event that will look at how U.S. and international privacy protections and enforcement are working in practice, and explore how the U.S. legal system can influence privacy protection in the private sector and abroad.

    This review is coming at a critical juncture.  Social media and mobile computing are pushing societal boundaries and expectations around privacy.  At the same time, increasing flows and aggregation of data brought about by cloud computing, ambiguities in domestic privacy laws and fissures in the global regulatory framework are accelerating the need for updated online privacy protections.  Each of these trends present challenges for organizations seeking to responsibly manage data across geographical boundaries while minimizing risk.  Microsoft and our industry partners called on Congress to enact comprehensive federal privacy legislation four years ago, and the rapid pace of change in the Internet environment is making our call for baseline privacy protections even more urgent.

    My comments today will focus on Microsoft’s fundamental belief that the right balance between innovation and privacy protection can indeed be achieved. To accomplish this goal, baseline privacy legislation needs to be flexible, applicable across sectors and technology neutral.  It can build upon the current regulatory framework and should operate in tandem with elements of existing self-regulation, enforcement, privacy-enhancing technologies and sound business practices. Getting the balance right will also require close cooperation between industry, government, advocates and consumers.  Today’s event is an important step in fostering that dialogue.

  • Government and Industry at the Table for Cloud Computing

    Posted by Teresa Carlson 
    Vice President, Microsoft Federal

    (Cross-posted from the Microsoft FutureFed blog)

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) held an event last week that brought stakeholders in the federal IT community together to discuss cloud standards for data portability, interoperability, and security.  It was called the Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop, and members of the Microsoft Federal team attended to brainstorm ideas on how we can best facilitate cloud adoption in the federal government. 

    Below is a great recap from Susie Adams, Microsoft’s Federal Civilian and IGO Chief Technology Officer.

    Last week I attended the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop, and it was clearly a serious effort to kick off collaboration between government and industry to accelerate the use of cloud technology.   Dr. Pat Gallagher, Director of NIST, believes that cloud computing can make the U.S. government “more effective, more efficient, and we believe more secure.” However, Dr. Gallagher indicated that the government is falling behind the private sector in adopting cloud services, and that he shares the concern of Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer, that government does not offer citizens and employees online services as robust as the commercial services of Facebook, for example.

  • Microsoft Welcomes the “Digital Agenda for Europe”

    Posted by John Vassallo 
    Vice President EU Legal and Corporate Affairs

    (Cross posted from microsoft.eu)

    Microsoft welcomes the “Digital Agenda for Europe,” announced earlier this week by European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, as a bold roadmap for action. We share the Commission’s view that technology is an enabler for economic growth, job creation, sustainability and social inclusion. As a company, we are fully committed to working with the European Commission and governments to realize the potential of Europe's digital future.

    The Digital Agenda sets out concrete actions in a number of important areas, such as harmonizing the delivery of pan-EU digital services, driving connectivity and broadband penetration, as well as promoting interoperability across the range of the ICT agenda. These actions can act as a spur for Europe’s competitiveness and for the broader innovation and economic growth agenda. The Digital Agenda also addresses online security, data privacy and identity management so that Europe’s Internet users have greater trust and confidence online. We commend this action and the preparation for measures that address jurisdiction in cyberspace at European and International level. These steps are essential to pave the way for the roll-out of next generation technologies, like cloud computing, that will benefit citizens and business across Europe.

  • Fulfilling a Promise to Advance Interoperability

    Posted by William Kennedy
    Corporate Vice President, Office Communications and Forms

    Many customers today organize their private and professional lives in e-mail, where they routinely store essential data.  Microsoft Outlook and similar programs have long since replaced the rolodex or the pocket diary as people’s primary repositories for contacts, photos, calendar items and more.  As the tools we use change, so do the reasons we use them.  If you’ve ever searched through old e-mail for a friend’s phone number, or if you work within an organization concerned about regulatory and compliance issues, you likely understand why having easy access to the data stored in e-mail files is important.

    Given the importance of Outlook and our other high-volume products to computer users we’ve taken great strides to advance their openness and transparency, in keeping with our Interoperability Principles.   Today, we have met another milestone on the path toward greater interoperability.

    This spring, we released detailed technical documentation for a file format (.pst) used in recent versions of, Microsoft Outlook, our most popular e-mail application.  By releasing the technical documentation and protocols for communicating with Outlook data, we are making it easier to enhance corporate compliance, e-Discovery, security, search, and enterprise content management. These types of applications can interoperate with the .pst data, even if they run on other platforms – including those of our competitors.  The documentation we have released provides a new way of accessing this data, regardless of whether Outlook is installed.

  • Accelerating change – we can’t do it alone

     

    Pamela Passman
    Pamela Passman, Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    Posted by Pamela Passman 
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    On Thursday we hosted our first citizenship “Accelerator Summit,” a day of open discussion on our corporate citizenship efforts. The conversation was based on how technology and partnerships can accelerate change on social and economic issues.  The event included a variety of different sessions related to workforce development, education, environment, online safety, and the role of technology in the non-profit community. It was attended by government and nongovernmental partners, academics, journalists and bloggers.

    Events like this provide us with the opportunity to shine a light on the big problems we are working with others to try to solve.  We have learned that partnership must be at the very center of our efforts.  We don’t have all the answers and we are always learning.  We learn from the feedback we receive, we learn from working with partners and we learn from how people are using our products and services – often in ways we never imagined.

    When we formalized our citizenship program in 2003, we realized there were efforts underway across every part of the company. It became apparent that we had a great opportunity to increase the impact of those activities by bringing them together.

  • Seeking Proposals to Help Veterans

    Posted by Pamela Passman
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    Last March I was privileged to announce an expansion of Microsoft’s Elevate America program to address the specific challenges that face U.S. military veterans and their spouses as they transition to civilian life. Our Elevate America Veterans Initiative will bring together a coalition of partners, through a competitive grant process, to provide veterans and their spouses with a host of services and resources, including technology skills training, job placement, career counseling, childcare, transportation and housing.

    The response to this initiative has been incredible, and we’re fortunate to have support from great organizations such as The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO) and Wounded Warrior Project. They’ve agreed to act as our advisors, ensuring that the programs and services offered will make a real difference in the lives of veterans.

    Today we’re releasing a request for proposals to organizations across the country that want to get involved. We’re encouraging all interested organizations to review the eligibility criteria, partner with others in their local community and apply for funding if they have programs that will help veterans succeed in the civilian workforce.

    Microsoft is grateful to America’s veterans for all they’ve done to protect and serve our country, and we’re excited about this initiative. We’ll be sharing more details as we move forward.