As the IT industry scrambles to outfit the burgeoning and potentially lucrative market for Internet of things (IoT) technologies, Microsoft has already settled into the role of a cyber-crime fighter.
IoT will roil the IT industry in the coming years, industry watchers predict. From smart cities to smart homes, billions of sensors and devices are expected to flood the Internet with traffic and data centers with analytical workloads. Cisco expects that by 2020, the Internet of everything, an expansion of sorts of the Internet of things, will have a global financial impact of $19 trillion.
For now, Microsoft is leveraging its IoT efforts to combat cyber-crime, an area law enforcement struggles with.
"Fighting cyber-crime against residents—particularly identity theft and fraud—is a growing concern of law enforcement agencies that are often hampered by legacy technology and budget restrictions," wrote Microsoft's IoT Industry Team in a company blog post. "Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) is focused on helping agencies evolve to establish aggressive defenses against cyber-crime—and to do that, they are using IoT technologies."
In a separate post, Kirk Arthur, managing director of Microsoft Worldwide Public Safety and Justice, observed that law enforcement officers are often outclassed by tech-savvy criminals. "Too often, law enforcement is far behind in the use of technology that is being leveraged on a daily basis by international organized crime," remarked the former U.S. Secret Service agent.
Identity theft, in particular, has evolved over the years from a local crime to a sophisticated black market that now crosses jurisdictional boundaries, he noted. "This dark Web supports a level of sharing among criminals that law enforcement agencies still are struggling to achieve."
According to Microsoft DCU, each year cyber-crime affects nearly 400 million people—in the past year, costing consumers $113 billion. Roughly half of all adults online are affected, and 20 percent of small and midsized businesses are targeted. All told, this activity winds up costing the global economy up to 500 billion dollars, according to Microsoft's estimates.
To stem these losses, Microsoft is championing the use of an IoT cornerstone: the cloud.
Arthur contended that the cloud can support "the intelligence-gathering and analytics that enable data-driven policing and real-time decision-making, as well as provide the unified communications needed for command and control." Cloud-based big data analytics can help streamline law enforcement logistics, he added.
Yet, like in the realm of corporate IT, security concerns linger, Arthur said.
In June, a survey conducted by North Bridge Venture Partners and Gigaom Research found that 49 percent of businesses were concerned about cloud data security.
A big challenge to getting law enforcement on board "is convincing officials that it is safe and secure," Arthur wrote. "I believe that the cloud is the most secure and efficient platform out there; more so than an agency maintaining its own systems and infrastructures on-premise."