Microsoft chief back at seat of learning to take prestigious title

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A SENIOR director of Microsoft who is leading the hunt against cyber criminals has returned to the Capital to take up a prestigious title at his old university.

John Howie, who was born in Edinburgh but now lives in Seattle, has been appointed a visiting professor at Napier University.

The cybercrime hotshot, who protects users of popular sites including Hotmail, MSN and Bing, has been working at one of the world's top companies for the past seven years.

Today the senior director said he was honoured and delighted to take up the position at his old place of study, where he gained a 2:1 in computing.

Mr Howie, 41, who grew up in Stockbridge, said: "I was very happy studying at my university.

"The staff to student ratio was very high, so they gave us a lot of individual time. If it hadn't been for their patience and attention I don't know if I'd be where I am today.

"In my job I run a team of people who are responsible for the day-to-day security at Microsoft. We look after the servers worldwide and monitor websites such as Hotmail and MSN messenger. We try to defend against people who are trying to hack into the sites."

Mr Howie, who returns to the Capital four to five times a year, heads a team of 22 people who maintain customer security and privacy.

He was headhunted by Microsoft in 2003. The cyber expert first went to the US in 1995 – four years after he finished his degree – where he lived in Manhattan and worked as a security expert for Reuters.

Despite living across the water, he has given several guest lectures at Napier University. Over the past 12 months he has also helped raise funds for his old course and helped in Edinburgh Napier's Digital DNA technology project, a unique digital fingerprinting and analysis technology that will help firms beat computer fraud.

Mr Howie said he hoped to return to the university every three months to offer the students advice and give guest lectures. And as he took up his post yesterday, he discussed cyber crime at a conference where he talked about the latest security measures and defences.

He said: "I want to be active with the students because I believe in giving something back after all that Napier did for me.

"I only found out about the professorship last week and I am delighted. I feel very honoured."

Professor William Buchanan, from Edinburgh Napier's School of Computing, said: "John regularly returns to provide valuable input, industry insight and inspiration to the Edinburgh Napier students.

"He is so approachable. The material he presents also typically gives them a lead over other graduates in this area, encouraging them to have a view on the future."

Philip Stradling, who is part of Microsoft's Online Services Government Engagement Team, added: "We congratulate John on his appointment as a visiting professor. Microsoft is looking forward to working with Edinburgh Napier's team to drive innovation in online services through collaborative research on security.

"The university has established itself as a leader in the industry."