Published: Tue, April 16, 2019
Industry | By Dora Warner

Microsoft warns Outlook users to change passwords after hackers gained access

Microsoft warns Outlook users to change passwords after hackers gained access

Microsoft's message to users of its managed email services confirms earlier reports that its servers had been breached by unknown attackers, though the mechanism at least is clear: The capturing of login credentials belonging to an unnamed support agent at the company, which apparently gave those who obtained it extensive access for a period of three months following the theft of the credentials on January 1st.

Microsoft alerted its users of the breach over the weekend with the following statement published by The Verge: "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".

But according to the cited source, hackers were able to gain "full access to email content", as the compromised account had high privileges.

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As serious as this sounds, the hack was even worse than Microsoft first let on, as Motherboard reported on Sunday that the hackers were indeed able to access actual emails from "a large number of Outlook, MSN, and Hotmail email accounts".

Scammers could use the compromised email accounts to launch spam operations or steal users identities.

Founded in 1996, Outlook.com is a web-based suite of webmail, contacts, tasks, and calendaring services developed and offered by Microsoft.

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Microsoft hasn't divulged the number of accounts that may have been hit by the compromise but claimed that it was only a "limited subset of consumer accounts".

The firm warned in its e-mail that users might receive more spam and phishing e-mails as a result of the incident, and urged users not to click on links from e-mail addresses they did not recognise.

The company went on to say that login details or other personal information were not compromised but advised users to change their passwords as an extra security measure. Enterprise accounts were not affected, per Motherboard's source. Out of an abundance of caution, however, customers whose inboxes were left exposed to the intruder will be getting additional "detection and monitoring" on their email accounts.

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