Hackers steal Hotmail messages thanks to Web flaw

Microsoft has now fixed a Hotmail cross-site scripting flaw that Trend Micro discovered on May 12

Criminals recently spent more than a week siphoning e-mail messages from Hotmail users' accounts, thanks to a programming bug in Microsoft's website.

The flaw gave hackers a way to read and steal e-mail messages from Hotmail users, and according to security vendor Trend Micro, that's exactly what they did, sending specially crafted e-mail messages to several thousand victims.

On May 12, Trend Micro found a message sent to a victim in Taiwan that looked like a Facebook notification alert. The Chinese-language e-mail seemed to be warning victims that someone had accessed their Facebook accounts from a new location.

In fact, it was a ruse. Buried inside the e-mail message was a specially written script that forwarded the victim's e-mail messages to the hacker.

For the attack to work, the victim had to be logged into Hotmail, but the script would run even if the victim simply previewed the message. The attack worked because Microsoft had a common Web programming error, called a cross-site scripting flaw, on its website.

"The script triggers a request that is sent to the Hotmail server," Trend Micro wrote in a blog post describing the issue. It then "sends all of the affected users email messages to a certain email address."

Cross-site scripting flaws are easy to find on the Web, but they're rare in important, widely used websites such as Windows Live Hotmail.

Trend Micro reported the issue to Microsoft immediately, and it was finally fixed on Friday, according to Microsoft. It's not clear how many Hotmail users were hit by the attack.

According to Trend Micro, the attack doesn't seem to have been widespread. The company was able to count between 1,000 and 2,000 victims after discovering the issue, said Jamz Yaneza, a Trend Micro research manager. However, Trend Micro has no way of knowing how long the flaw was there before it was uncovered, he added.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

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.

Tags securityMicrosoftinternettrend microInternet-based applications and services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?