Microsoft brought down by 'denial of service' hack attack

The hack attack began Thursday morning and targeted the routers that direct traffic to the company's Web sites, Microsoft said in a statement. Access to some of the company's most popular online destinations, including the home page and Web portal, were intermittent for many customers throughout the morning, Microsoft said.

The software maker said it took steps to counter the attacks and that its Web sites were operating normally by Thursday afternoon. The company also said it has been in touch with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about the attacks.

DoS attacks disable a computer by bombarding it with a high volume of information requests in a short period of time, causing it to crash or become so overwhelmed that it grinds to a halt. A series of high-profile DoS attacks in February last year brought prominent Web sites, including Yahoo, and eBay temporarily to their knees, costing millions of dollars and raising new concerns about security on the Internet. Thursday's incident comes just hours after Microsoft's Web sites were knocked off line for almost a whole day by what the company said was a technical error made by one of its engineers Tuesday evening. In that outage, a technician working on the company's DNS (domain name system) network changed the configuration on one of its routers, blocking access to its sites, Microsoft said. Microsoft said the latest incident was "completely separate" from the outage that started Tuesday. One security expert was sceptical, however, saying Microsoft's problems may have been the result of a DoS attack all along.

"It is hard to believe that one problem is different from the other,"said Ric Steinberger, technical director at online security company SecurityPortal. "It is not always obvious from the start that something is DoS or due to a change in configuration. I think probably when the dust settles Microsoft is going to say this is all the result of a DoS attack."

DNS servers translate addresses, such as, into the numeric IP (Internet Protocol) addresses that computers use to communicate with each other. When a DNS system fails, Web browsers can't locate the IP addresses assigned to Web servers and hence can't open the desired Web page.

Microsoft said the type of attack it suffered Thursday was not related to any of its products, and apologised for the inconvenience caused to its customers. The outages also affected Microsoft's Hotmail free email service, which is used by millions around the world, as well as its travel site, news site and auto sales site Corporate customers who use Microsoft's Web sites for technical help and to download software upgrades and security patches also found themselves locked out.

The steps taken Thursday should improve the company's protection against future DoS attacks, Microsoft said. The company will take additional steps in the weeks ahead to protect itself further against interruptions.

"It is unfortunate that an individual or group of individuals would engage in this kind of illegal activity," Microsoft said in the statement.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?