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Why Microsoft’s slow hacking notices should worry everyone

Microsoft is slowly and discreetly notifying customers who have had their data hacked, more than SIX months after the theft occurred. Even the email notice was poorly worded so some people thought it was a fake. Their response should worry everyone who uses their cloud services.

Back in 2023 Microsoft’s systems were hacked by a Russian backed group using an attack called “Midnight Blizzard”. That allowed many Microsoft hosted mailboxes to be copied including those of senior US politicians, administrators and ambassadors.

Inadequate and preventable

Little wonder that the US Government issued a scathing report against Microsoft and its cloud services calling it’s security “inadequate” and the intrusion “preventable and should never have occurred”.

Now, SIX months later, Microsoft is notifying affected customers that their data has been compromised.  We’ve copied the text of the entire message below.

Part of ‘transparency’ is being prompt and timely.   Waiting six months to tell their customers their data might have been stolen isn’t a “commitment to transparency”.

Luckily, most Microsoft cloud users including Microsoft 365, OneDrive and users were not affected THIS TIME. Everyone needs to be careful about what they store online in Microsoft’s cloud service or any other.

Delayed notice to customers

The email was mistaken for a fake, phishing message by some, and we don’t blame them. Most notably the “Secure Link” given using a domain name not obviously from Microsoft.

Suspicious people would be entitled to wonder if all the affected customers are being informed or that all the hacked data is being disclosed to notified organizations.

Are we supposed to take Microsoft’s word for it when the company has a self-interest in damage limitation?

“This notification is related to the prior attack against Microsoft by the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard, as disclosed through our 8-K filings and our Microsoft blog.

You are receiving this notification because emails were exchanged between Microsoft and accounts in your organization, and those emails were accessed by the threat actor Midnight Blizzard as part of their cyber-attack on Microsoft.

As part of our commitment to transparency, we are proactively sharing these emails. We have custom built a secure system to enable the approved members of your organization to review the exfiltrated emails between Microsoft and your company.

In order to grant access to the above-referenced emails, you are required to identify authorized individuals within your organization who can nominate reviewers. As needed, please reach out to the appropriate parties in your organization who have the authority to nominate reviewers to view these emails.

At the bottom of this email is a link which will take you to a secure form where you will be asked to provide the following information:

– Your organization’s TenantID

– If you do not know or are unsure of your TenantID, please follow the steps outlined here:

– The access code located at the bottom of this email

– The email addresses for individuals within your organization who can nominate reviewers who will be granted access to the set of exfiltrated emails.

Once you complete this form, Microsoft will contact those who have been identified with instructions on how to identify reviewers.

Should you or your organization require support during this process please work with your Customer Success Account Manager (CSAM) or account representative(s) to open a support case and reference Microsoft Email Data Sharing. Microsoft continues to prioritize transparency and learnings from events like these to help protect customers and our own enterprise.

Our investigation is ongoing, if we discover new information, we will tell you as soon as practicable. “

Then follows a “Secure Link” to the which is owned by Microsoft, but you have to do a WhoIs search to find out.

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