Microsoft opens Singapore cybersecurity satellite center

Its fifth worldwide and third in Asia, the Microsoft Cybercrime Satellite Centre in Singapore will support the company's cybersecurity efforts in the region.

Microsoft has opened its fifth global Cybercrime Satellite Centre in Singapore to support its cybercrime efforts in Asia-Pacific, which is increasingly a hot target for hackers.

The facility is the third in the region where there are similar centers in Beijing and Tokyo, and will lend its services to Southeast Asian economies including India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. The other two global sites are in Berlin and Washington, the latter of which was where the first was launched in November 2013.

The satellite centers run under Microsoft's digital crimes unit, which operates primarily as a support or cost center and not a for-profit business unit within the company, said Keshav Dhakad, Microsoft's Asia regional director of digital crimes unit, during a media briefing Monday at the launch. It supports the software vendor's business objectives and provides another layer of authentication to enhance its overall security environment, Dhakad said.

The global digital crime unit comprises more than 100 lawyers, investigators, engineers, forensic analysts, and data scientists located across the globe, including India, China, and EMEA. It works with industry partners, internet service providers as well as law enforcement and computer emergency response teams (CERTs) in the various local markets.

The Singapore center will leverage the resources of its U.S. counterpart, which coordinates global efforts to combat cybercrime and provides real-time cyberthreat intelligence and big data analytics. Microsoft has led various initiatives to deal with specific threats such as Operation Gameover Zeus in June 2014 aimed at combating the peer-to-peer botnet, which was based on the Zeus trojan and targeted banking and financial information.

The Microsoft digital crime unit also runs a Cyber Threat Intelligence Program that processes and analyzes more than 500 million transactions a day for malware infections, and provides training for third-party partners. CERTs have free access to the program, Dhakad said.

Richard Boscovich, Microsoft's US assistant general counsel for digital crimes unit added that the team works closely with the Interpol and will continue to do so when the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation officially opens in Singapore in April.

With three of its five global satellite centers located in Asia, Microsoft is putting resources in a region where IT consumption is growing exponentially and that is increasingly a target for hackers looking for financial gains.

Boscovich said: "We look at cybercriminals as business people and they follow [emerging markets] which are economically lucrative." A lot of computer usage in Asia also do not have safe practices, making these users prime targets for cybercriminals, he said, noting that the Singapore center will provide more visibility into malware developed specifically for the region.

S. Iswaran, Singapore's Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, noted that the city-state is "natural target for cybercriminals" because it is a trusted business hub with high presence of multinational corporations.

He noted that both government and commercial websites in the country had come under attack in recent years and could "inadvertently" become more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats as it drives its smart nation efforts.

"The sharing of expertise and information through cross-industry and public-private partnerships is a cornerstone of any effective cybersecurity ecosystem. It is critical that we create an environment of trust where networks can share intelligence expeditiously and partner organizations can discuss measures to tackle threats or prevent similar incidents from taking place," Iswaran said.