[ISN] Microsoft admits popular MSN site hacked in Korea

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Jun 3 01:29:15 EDT 2005


By Ted Bridis
June 2, 2005

WASHINGTON - Microsoft acknowledged Thursday that hackers
booby-trapped its popular MSN Web site in Korea to try to steal
passwords from visitors. The company said it was unclear how many
Internet users might have been victimized.

Microsoft said it cleaned the Web site, www.msn.co.kr, and removed the
dangerous software code that unknown hackers had added earlier this
week. A spokesman, Adam Sohn, said Microsoft was confident its
English-language Web sites were not vulnerable to the same type of

Korea is a leader in high-speed Internet users worldwide. Microsoft's 
MSN Web properties - which offer news, financial advice, car- and 
home-buying information and more - are among the most popular across 
the Web. 

The affected Microsoft site in Korea offers news and other information 
plus links to the company's free e-mail and search services. Its 
English-language equivalent is the default home Internet page for the 
newest versions of its flagship Windows software sold in the United 

The Korean site, unlike U.S. versions, was operated by another company 
Microsoft did not identify. Microsoft's own experts and Korean police 
authorities were investigating, but Microsoft believes the computers 
were vulnerable because operators failed to apply necessary software 
patches, said Sohn, an MSN director. 

"Our preliminary opinion here was, this was the result of an unpatched 
operating system," Sohn said. "When stuff is in our data center, it's 
easier to control. We're pretty maniacal about getting servers patched 
and keeping our customers safe and protected." 

Microsoft's acknowledgment of the hacking incident was the latest 
embarrassment for the world's largest software company, which has 
spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve security and promote 
consumer confidence in its products. 

Security researchers noticed the suspicious programming added to the 
Korea site and contacted the company Tuesday. Microsoft traced the 
problem and removed the hacked computers within hours, Sohn said, but 
it doesn't yet know how long the dangerous programming was present. 

In recent days no customers have reported problems stemming from 
visits to the Web site, Sohn said. 

The hacker program scanned visitors' computers and tried to activate 
password-stealing software that was found separately to exist on some 
hacked Chinese Web sites. 

Microsoft said it was trying to decide whether to issue a broad public 
warning to recent visitors of the Korean site as it examines its own 
records to attempt to trace anyone who might have been victimized. 


On the Net: 
Microsoft: www.microsoft.com 

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