Technology giant Microsoft has selected Colombia's capital Bogota as its outpost in Latin America, as part of a network of offices across the globe which will collaborate with regional authorities to address cyber crime.
Announcing its new Cybercrime Center in Redmond, Washington, on November 14, Microsoft identified 12 locations across the globe for satellite offices and regional laboratories, including five in Europe, four in Asia, one in Australia and one in Washington DC.
According to El Espectador, there are six million annual victims of cyber crime in Colombia and the new Microsoft office will liaise with authorities on matters of "information regarding vulnerability and viruses," according to the company's Latin America Director for Cybercrime Andres Rengifo, although he guaranteed that would not involve passing on personal details.
The new global scheme will bring together security engineers, digital forensics experts and lawyers specialized in cyber crime, and will combine massive data gathering and analysis, traditional detective work, high-level diplomacy and legal action, reported Reuters. Microsoft software will create maps of online criminal networks and gather intelligence on cyber threats obtained through operations to destroy botnets -- collections of programs that communicate with each other to send spam or flood the bandwidth of a targeted system. Another program, PhotoDNA, is used to prevent child pornography by turning images into hash values that are very hard to alter.
InSight Crime Analysis
Organized crime has never been slow to adapt, and as technology has advanced Latin American criminal groups have learnt to harness it for their purposes in increasingly imaginative ways, outpacing law enforcement. InSight Crime has reported on the use of the internet to promote criminal activities and offer services, make graphic threats and gather information on new recruits or kidnap victims. Cyber crime has become a major problem across the continent, with over half of companies in the region reporting some sort of cyber attack in 2012, according to internet security firm ESET. Earlier this year, Mexico was identified as one of the top ten countries in the world for identity theft, while a study by computer security firm Norton reported that cyber crime now costs $3 billion each year in Mexico alone -- almost double what it cost in 2011.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cyber Crime
State institutions have been targeted for cyber-attacks in recent years, including in Mexico, Brazil and Guatemala. Latin American governments have been criticized for failing to keep up with the technology used by organized crime, making the Colombia Microsoft office a very positive step.