Microsoft websites suffer large scale blackout

Microsoft New Zealand's embarrassment at having its website hacked was dwarfed overnight when most of Microsoft's key websites became unreachable for hours with DNS problems.

          Microsoft New Zealand's embarrassment at having its website hacked was dwarfed overnight when most of Microsoft's key websites became unreachable for hours with DNS problems.

          Sites hit included web-based email service Hotmail.com, web portal MSN.com, news website MSNBC.com and the company's corporate site Microsoft.com.

          "The internet's Domain Name System (DNS) [did] not return the correct response when it is queried for a Microsoft website," said Ruud de Jonge, support manager at Microsoft Benelux.

          De Jonge said the DNS error "could be a system or human error, but somebody could also have done this intentionally. We don't manage the DNS ourselves, it is a system controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) with worldwide replicas."

          A team at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington worked on the problem, which has been given top priority, said De Jonge.

          Because of the blackout, some 60 million Hotmail users worldwide couldn't access their email, Microsoft customers couldn't download software updates or get online support and MSNBC.com had no audience. Other services that couldn't be reached included Windowsupdate.com, which contains updates for the Windows operating system, Passport.com, Microsoft's online identification service, and bCentral.com, a portal for small and medium sized businesses.

          Hackers could be responsible for the outage that has continued for hours now, said Simon Hania, spokesman for Dutch internet service provider XS4ALL Internet BV. "The name server that is authoritative for Microsoft's websites might have crippled under a Denial of Service attack," he said.

          Hania said, however, it is more likely that a network error or system failure caused the problem.

          The DNS consists of many machines around the world set up in a hierarchy. "It looks like the machine hit is in the top of the DNS tree," Hania said. "Once it is fixed it can take a couple of hours for for all DNS systems around the world to pick up the correct DNS information."

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