Security Jungle: Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Busted


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I recently published a video on YouTube about false computerized phone calls and identity theft. Interestingly enough, Corrine over at SecurityGarden reports that Microsoft removed one of their Gold Certified Partners over a very similar issue: telephone scams.

This is true:

It is important to understand that being a Microsoft Partner, in any shape, whether Certified or Gold Certified, does not mean that the company represents Microsoft. Rather, it merely means that the company has met the requisite requirements, has paid the requisite fee and has earned the appropriate Partner Points for the Partner level. The requirements for both Microsoft Gold Certified and Microsoft Certified Partners are fully described at the references…

In fact, we are a Microsoft Certified Partner, but do not rise to the level of Gold Certified Partner because we need a prerequisite of, if I am not mistaken, two or three Microsoft Certified Professionals and a multi-thousand dollar a year fee to put such a logo on the website. I think we also have to buy a Microsoft Action Pack Subscription for extra points, but who knows. The point is that to gain Microsoft Gold Certified Partner status, you simply need to be a company with a few skilled employees and a lot of money. This is an unfortunate reality, but it is the truth.

As a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, I routinely receive NDA correspondence from Microsoft. I am also certified by Microsoft as a MCITP, MCSA, MCTS, and MCP. This does not make me a Microsoft representative, and it does not make our website Microsoft certified or sanctioned. However, we are led to believe, through the MVP program’s actions, that they have appreciated our contributions to the Windows community, by nominating MVPs from this forum site. Early in the site’s beginnings, we did have some of the developers register on the site, with one or two of them even answering a question. That was nice of them.

Similarly, you will see indications everywhere, from the footer of every page, to the Frequently Asked Questions area, indicating that we do not have a direct affiliation or relationship with Microsoft at all. Communicating with Microsoft and affiliating your entire business or organization with them are two major things. Our moderators have done an exceptional and awesome job answering questions and keeping the site on the straight and narrow.

We continue to work closely with Microsoft on many different projects. For example, we have contact with one of the mainstays of their anti-piracy group when dealing with posters who link or provide information that would allow you to infringe on Microsoft’s copyrights or trademarks. I will also be at the Microsoft Global MVP Summit in Redmond, Washington at the end of February 2012 to engage in workshops and other activities.

Some time ago, we had issues with members of the "Microsoft Outreach Team" coming to our forums and advising everyone to simply go to the Microsoft knowledgebase or the official MS forums for answers to their support questions. At one point, it got to an issue where they were just telling people to go to

Investigations further revealed that these individuals, while given access to e-mail addresses, were third party contractors based out of India and outside the US. This practice was so repugnant, because this "Outreach Team" had no answers for anyone. They were paid marketers designed to send people off to Microsoft's website. We can only assume the firms were being paid based on conversions, since they would mask Microsoft URLs with TinyURL and, a practice that we became aware of that Microsoft frowns upon for security reasons. In fact, Bill Bright (MVP), I believe, suggested that the Outreach Team was banned from using these URLs.

They were tracking their own success/fail ratio and sending it to whoever was the lead contractor for the program by using these links, no doubt. It was a number of firms coming from IPs in India and this was very unfortunate, as the e-mail addresses led us to believe they were legitimate employees. The cat got out of the bag when an honest one actually told us what was going on.

It is my contention a great amount of harm is done by these programs, marketers, fraudsters, as well as those who are paranoid of information syndication and awareness. Why put up a RSS feed or report news if you think syndicating it requires you file a federal arbitration claim using the DMCA? I guess that’s for an entire other article, but it does bring to mind that robots and criminals are more likely to use the phone these days than people. Corrine also informs her audience to hang up on people you don't know who are making strange unsolicited phone calls: a funny reminder to me that we are in the era of e-mails, SMS, instant messaging, and Facebook. A phone? You mean I actually hang up on people if they call me unsolicited?

Here's a tip if you live in the US:

The National Do Not Call Registry prevents third party marketers from calling your telephone.