One week after Microsoft reported an intrusion into its corporate networks, another hacker claimed to have penetrated the company's Web servers late last week.
The Dutch hacker, using the alias 'Dimitri', said in an interview with the IDG News Service that Microsoft failed to install a patch for a known bug in its Internet Information Server (IIS) software, and has not sufficiently secured its Web servers.
He gained access to several of Microsoft's Web servers and was able to upload a short text file, "Hack The planet", boasting of the hack to http://events.microsoft.com/, Dimitri said. He could alter files on Microsoft's download site, he said.
"I could add Trojan horses to software that MS customers download," Dimitri said.
Dimitri also claimed he downloaded files containing administrative user names and passwords to the server. The encrypted files could be decoded with a tool called the L0ft crack, he said, but added that he had not and would not decode them.
Dimitri said he got a "pretty good look" at Microsoft's server structure. He said the server domain is called Houston and that all of Microsoft's Web servers are set up the same way with the same disk image.
A Microsoft spokesman confirmed the hacker reached at least one server, but said that Microsoft security personnel were rechecking their servers for holes to patch.
"We investigated this report," Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn said. "He was able to exploit a known security flaw that we were able to patch. The patch had not yet applied to the server." He could not confirm that all servers in Microsoft's network had the hole patched.
Dimitri said he used the so-called Unicode bug to get access to Microsoft's systems. Microsoft first patched this security hole on August 10, and issued a security bulletin on October 17 pointing customers to the same software patch. On its TechNet Web site, Microsoft refers to the bug as the "Web Server Folder Traversal" vulnerability.
"It is extremely sloppy for Microsoft not to install its own patches," Dimitri said.
Sohn said the security flaw was unrelated to the intrusion Microsoft reported to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 26. In that case, hackers gained access to source code under development for an unidentified future product.
The team patching the security hole in the server is different from the one working on the October intrusion, which was achieved using an attack program hidden in e-mail, said Rick Miller, another Microsoft spokesman. "They had nothing to do with each other. It's like comparing apples and oranges."
However, two hack attacks revealed in one week have raised questions about the extent of the weaknesses in Microsoft's computer defences. Security experts who have been able to confirm the intrusion through access logs provided by Dimitri said Microsoft must tighten its defences.
"It's bad enough we can browse the contents of Microsoft's server, it shouldn't be vulnerable to this," said Ryan Russell, technical editor of Securityfocus.com, a computer security Web site. "If it had anything interesting on the server, he could have gotten into it."
The damage to customer confidence may outweigh the actual security damage to Microsoft.
Dimitri "didn't have to be a rocket scientist" to get into Microsoft's server using a known security bug, and theoretically he had the opportunity to do damage once achieving access, said Paul Zimski, a security researcher at Internet security firm Finjan.