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Microsoft (MSFT) Disarms 50 Domains Used for Cyberattacks

Zacks Equity Research

Microsoft MSFT recently took down around 50 web domains, which were being utilized for cyberattacks by a hacking group dubbed Thallium. Notably, the group is touted to have originated from North Korea.

Markedly, Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and the company’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) have been closely monitoring Thallium’s activities.

Reportedly, the company filed a lawsuit against Thallium on Dec 18, 2019. On Dec 27, 2019, the company received a court order, which allowed it to disable the concerned 50 domains from executing further attacks.

Into the Headlines

The tech giant claims that the Thallium hackers used spear phishing techniques and malware named “KimJongRAT” and “BabyShark,” to launch cyberattacks across the United States, South Korea and Japan.

The targets included government employees, think tanks, staff members of universities, members of world peace institutions and human rights, and even individuals working on nuclear proliferation issues.

The hackers, operating a network of domains, websites, and Internet-connected computers, would target the victims’ online accounts, compromise the security of their computers, networks and gain access to sensitive information.

Threat Intelligence Measures Hold Promise

Microsoft is taking several steps to strengthen threat intelligence capabilities by reinforcing its Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) divisions, to better identify fake websites and address phishing attempts.

The Redmond-based tech giant notes that it has previously handled three similar instances via legal actions, which were aimed to malign domain infrastructure. These include takedown of malicious domains from hacking groups named Barium, Strontium and Phosphorus operating from China, Russia, and Iran, respectively.

Microsoft recommends individuals and institutions, alike to enable two-factor authentication on business and personal email accounts, to protect from cyberattacks. The company is also insisting on being aware of phishing schemes, enable security alerts and check email forwarding rules.

Microsoft Corporation Price and Consensus


Microsoft Corporation Price and Consensus

Microsoft Corporation price-consensus-chart | Microsoft Corporation Quote

Moreover, the company’s AccountGuard service is developed to provide robust protection to highly targeted individuals and organizations in the political space from cybersecurity threats.

Per MarketsandMarkets, the threat intelligence market is expected to grow to $12.9 billion by 2023, witnessing a CAGR of 19.7% from 2018 to 2023. This estimate instills confidence in Microsoft’s growth prospects in the domain.

Further, growing need for stringent security measures is compelling governments and enterprises to increase spending on cybersecurity, which in turn is anticipated to bolster adoption of Microsoft’s cybersecurity services.

Risks Remain

Although the aforementioned factors reinforce Microsoft’s prospects in threat intelligence vertical, increasing expenses on product enhancements is likely to limit margin expansion at least in the near term.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Microsoft currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader sector are Keysight Technologies Inc. KEYS, Fortinet, Inc. FTNT and Marchex, Inc. MCHX. All the three stocks flaunt a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Long-term earnings growth rate for Keysight, Fortinet and Marchex is currently pegged at 9.1%, 14% and 15%, respectively.

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