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Microsoft Tries To Clean Up COFEE Spill

Someone spilled hot COFEE, otherwise known as Microsoft's Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor.

The spill or leak was noted on Monday in reports from CrunchGear and Ars Technica. COFEE is a computer forensics solution that Microsoft provides for free to law enforcement agencies. It's really a collection of tools packaged together on a thumb drive for easy use by police on the scene of a crime or cybercrime.

Now, the software has somehow become expropriated, and it's found its way onto bit torrent sites.

Essentially, COFEE is now openly distributed as pirated software. The distribution was supposed to have been controlled through the National White Collar Crime Center or INTERPOL.

Microsoft confirmed the leak on Tuesday, stating that it plans to "mitigate unauthorized distribution of our technology beyond the means for which it's been legally provided," according to a statement from Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for Internet safety at Microsoft Corp. He discouraged people from downloading pirated COFEE software -- not just because it's an unauthorized distribution, but because the copies could have been modified.

Boscovich debunked the idea that pirates can now use the pirated COFEE software to "build around" its use by law enforcement agencies.

"Its value for law enforcement is not in secret functionality unknown to cybercriminals," Boscovich stated. "Its value is in the way COFEE brings those tools together in a simple and customizable format for law enforcement use in the field."

It's also possible that cyber crooks could use COFEE in the same way that law enforcement agencies do -- to glean information from people's computers. That point wasn't addressed in Boscovich's statement.

Microsoft claims that law enforcement officers can learn to use COFEE in about 10 minutes. COFEE can run "more than 150 commands on a live computer system," according to a Microsoft government Web page. It's designed to capture information before a computer system is powered down and some information is lost.

Microsoft's Web page states that COFEE is designed to help law enforcement "in their fight against cybercrime, child pornography, online fraud, and other computer-facilitated crimes."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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