Microsoft had eye on hacker all along, reports say

Microsoft is claiming that not only did it detect the hacker who penetrated its internal network early on, but also closely tracked the hacker's movements.

          In its efforts to downplay the news that hackers might have compromised source code inside Microsoft's internal network, the software giant is claiming that not only did it detect the hacker early on, but also closely tracked the hacker's movements, according to a news report published yesterday.

          Quoting an anonymous source, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) newspaper said the attack lasted for only 12 days as opposed to the five weeks initially reported by Microsoft itself. Microsoft was aware of the attack when it began, and knew what the hacker was doing all along, according to the newspaper. Microsoft also feels very comfortable that it has enough information to help identify the hacker, WSJ said.

          On Friday morning, Oct. 27, when news of the hack attack first broke, Microsoft said that on Wednesday, Oct. 25, Microsoft security employees discovered that hackers had infiltrated computer systems at its Washington headquarters, using a Trojan horse virus program embedded in an e-mail attachment.

          The QAZ-Trojan will send information to an external e-mail address, and in Microsoft's case the address was in St. Petersburg, Russia and the information was passwords, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman. She added that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in by Microsoft on Thursday, Oct. 26.

          On Friday afternoon, Microsoft's point man on the hack attack, spokesman Rick Miller, said that a hacker had managed to view, but not alter, source code to Microsoft software, but said the code was for a product under development that wasn't due to be released for "several years."

          "The situation appears to be much narrower than we originally thought," Miller said. "We have no evidence that the hacker gained access to the source code to any of our products in release."

          According to a Microsoft statement posted on the company's Web site, an investigation has produced "no evidence" that the intruder gained access to source code for any of the company's major products, including Windows Me, Windows 2000 or Office.

          (George A Chidi Jr. contributed to this story.)

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