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Vigilante Justice on the Digital Frontier

In the face of slow government action, Wild West-style justice has moved to the digital realm, and private organizations risk being caught in the crossfire.

This is a story about Microsoft and a company called Vitalwerks, but first lets go through a fictional scenario.

Let's say you own a number of office buildings. Unbeknownst to you, some of your tenants are engaged in criminal activity. In particular, a crime ring operating out of some of these offices steals cars and uses them to rob banks. One day, you start getting angry calls from your tenants (the ones involved in legitimate businesses), because they are all locked out of their offices. You come to discover that General Motors, upset that its products are being stolen and used in bank robberies, has managed to identify the crime ring. However, rather than contacting you (the landlord), so that you can evict the offenders, or getting law enforcement involved to apprehend the criminals, the company spent months applying for a court order allowing it to seize the crime ring's offices on its own.

Unfortunately for you and your legitimate tenants, instead of locking down the individual offices used by the criminals, General Motors seized and locked down your entire office buildings.

[ IT Transformation: The Devil is in the Data. ]

This scenario seems absurd on so many levels. Why allow the criminals to operate with impunity for months instead of taking immediate action? Why not contact the landlord or law enforcement for help, instead of resorting to a secret seizure order? Why seize entire buildings, rather than the individual offices used by the suspects? Why is a third-party like General Motors even involved to this degree? How could a court ever agree that any of this was a good idea and issue an order allowing it? Despite the court order, the whole things reeks of vigilante justice.

As absurd as this all seems, it actually happened on June 30, only it was all online. The criminals were distributing malware. The landlord was a hosting company called Vitalwerks. The targets of the seizure were Vitalwerks' Internet domain names, and the company doing the seizing was Microsoft.

[ Read the rest of this article on Wall Street & Technology. ]

Christopher Camejo is an integral part of the Consulting leadership team for NTT Com Security, one of the largest security consulting organizations in the world. He directs NTT Com Security's assessment services including ethical hacking and compliance assessments. Mr. Camejo ... View Full Bio

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