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Microsoft, Crime Fighter

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Early today, CNET reported on Microsoft (MSFT) and Nokia’s (NOK) decision to contribute $12 million each towards a new mobile app development program at Finland’s Aalto University. Called “AppCampus” the program will train students to develop apps for both Windows Phone and Nokia’s Symbian and Series 4 in the hopes of better competing with the iPhone (AAPL) and Android (GOOG).

The two companies are hoping for a strong performance from the new Lumia 900 smartphone (out April 8), which offers 4G and goes for only $99 with a two-year contract. Of course, it’s unclear if anyone can break Apple and Google’s dominance in the mobile market.

Meanwhile, moving from college campuses to “non-descript office buildings” in the middle of Pennsylvania and Illinois, Microsoft recently found itself on a new adventure. On Friday, the company teamed up with US marshals to raid a botnet operation.

According to the Atlantic, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has been getting more aggressive in taking on cyber criminals. In this case, the raid stemmed from a civil suit brought by Microsoft and not law enforcement action.

Friday’s raid focused on the “Zeus botnets.” The group’s creators sell botnet software to clients around the world, who then use it to perform various online financial scams. While the recent action was a success, Microsoft does not believe that the operators involved knew that Zeus was using their computers.

This is not the company’s first effort against cyber criminals. They once offered a $250,000 reward for help catching a group of hackers. Better yet, 2010’s operation b49 helped take down the Waledac botnet and the company has helped shut down at least two others beyond that.

Unfortunately, the New York Times reports that Friday's action may not prove to be as big a blow against Zeus as Microsoft’s past efforts.

Microsoft’s do-gooding extends past hackers and into Internet safety as a whole. The company recently developed and gave away photo-identifying technology that can help catch child pornographers.

All in a day’s work for a company’s whose chairman basically donated his world’s richest man title to charity.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.