"Our data indicates that account-related information (but not the content of any e-mails) could have been viewed, but Microsoft has no indication why that information was viewed or how it may have been used", the tech company informed affected users in an email.
With access to our cloud data and PCs in many cases tied to our Microsoft accounts, which are also our Outlook.com email addresses, Microsoft owes it to users to be more clear about the compromise, and also how they will prevent it from recurring in the future.
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Details of the security breach were revealed when TechCrunch ran a report claiming that some Outlook.com accounts - and those with Hotmail email addresses (the old name for Outlook.com) or MSN.com users - had been compromised. A source told Motherboard reporter Joseph Cox outsiders could exploited a customer support portal to infiltrate any normal customer account, reading contents including the body of an email message. Although the source claims this went on for at least six months, Microsoft says the hackers had access from January 1st to March 28th.
The support account would also have only had access to free Outlook.com/Hotmail/MSN-branded accounts, and not to paid Office 365 email. In other words, the hackers aren't much interested in the email accounts per se; they just want to get their hands on those important reset-request emails so that they can boost the value of their stolen phones.
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"We addressed this scheme, which affected a limited subset of consumer accounts, by disabling the compromised credentials and blocking the perpetrators' access", the company was quoted as saying.
Specifically, Microsoft admitted it had sent notifications of a security breach to some users which informed them that their email content had (potentially) been read, but that this only applied to a small amount of the affected users, around 6%. In a blog post from April, Microsoft said that it saw an average of 300,000 phishing attempts in February alone.
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