Microsoft kept quiet on details of 2013 cyber breach

18 October, 2017, 00:41 | Author: Pamela Mathis

As reported by Reuters, Microsoft first caught wind of the breach in 2013 after a series of breaches were discovered at Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and other tech companies. Microsoft declined to discuss the incident.

Five former employees confirmed to Reuters that the database, which contained details about critical vulnerabilities that the company had yet to patch in Microsoft products including its Windows operating system, was hacked and kept secret. The former employees are less sure, however, with three of them noting that the study did not have enough information to draw that conclusion. The group behind the attack, referred to as Morpho, Butterfly, or Wild Neutron, managed to break into Mac computers used by employees, leveraging them to move on to Microsoft's company networks.

Bad guys with inside access to that information would literally have a "skeleton key" for hundreds of millions of computers around the world.

Major software companies like Microsoft always have a long list of bugs to fix.

According to the accounts provided from former employees of the tech giant, the statement did not touch on the severity of the breach or the potential implications of unpatched vulnerabilities being stolen and exploited.

In an email response, Microsoft said: "Our security teams actively monitor cyber threats to help us prioritize and take appropriate action to keep customers protected". It found no evidence that the stolen information had been used in those breaches.

"They absolutely discovered that bugs had been taken", one former employee told Reuters. United States officials were alarmed to learn of the hack which could have exposed software vulnerabilities to the attackers, reports Reuters.

In May Microsoft president Brad Smith said the NSA was to blame for "the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities".

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It is believed that this is only the second time such a corporate database has been breached. But in this case, there was complete disclosure by the non-profit foundation who said that one of the flaws in the database was later used to attack users of its Firefox browser. Rather than remain silent about the issue, however, it went public with what happened and informed users how to protect themselves.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

"Your bug repository should be equally important", he said.

The hackers are considered one of the most sophisticated and unsafe groups in operation, and continues to be active today. Experts can't agree about whether it is backed by a national government, let alone which one.

Microsoft released a terse statement following the attack on 22 February 2013. "We have no evidence of customer data being affected, and our investigation is ongoing", the company said at the time.

Inside the company, alarm spread as officials realised the database for tracking patches had been compromised, according to the five former security employees.

Even so, the former Microsoft workers said the database was poorly protected by just a single password.

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