Once upon a time, Microsoft symbolized all that was wrong with the tech world: greedy, monopolistic, single-mindedly focused on profits while caring little about the public good. In the heyday of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, the company ran roughshod over competitors in its attempt to corral the worldwide market for both operating systems and application software.
But today, Microsoft has embraced the role of the tech world’s better angel. And as events show in recent weeks, that’s not hype. The company has, to some extent, tried to act as the industry’s conscience as well as taking actions for the greater good.
One case in point: Microsoft’s recent revelation that it had uncovered evidence that the Russian government had targeted three congressional campaigns in the upcoming midterm elections — and that it had helped thwart the plot. Microsoft discovered the attempts as part of its long-running battle against the Russian government–backed hacking cyber-espionage group called Fancy Bear. Microsoft, which has been playing whack-a-mole with the group for well over a year, targets the command-and-control servers that control malware that Fancy Bear plants on victims’ computers, as well as associated websites that install malware on targets’ computers when the victims visit them as a result of a spearphishing attack.
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