May 24, 2024

In July 2023, Microsoft spilled the beans that Chinese hackers had busted into their cloud servers and swiped a crap ton of emails from US government peeps. We’re talking about 60,000 messages exposed! Crazy right? The kicker is that Microsoft didn’t even realize they’d been hacked until months later. Talk about slow reaction time! They finally fessed up publicly in September, but who knows how long those sneaky hackers had access?

This wasn’t the first time Microsoft slipped up, either. Turns out they’ve had a string of security snafus over the years, leading to breaches left and right. It’s like their servers are made of swiss cheese with all the holes hackers have found. So now we’ve got the Chinese probably reading up on all kinds of confidential stuff about our government. Who knows what kinds of shady plans they’ll hatch with that kind of insider intel?

Anyway, it’s a big mess for Microsoft. If you use Microsoft products, you should be aware of the Microsoft data breach timeline for several reasons. We cover 50+ statistics in this article so you can learn and stay proactive.

Microsoft Data Breach Statistics

Chinese Adversary Used Microsoft Cloud to Enact Data Breach

1. In July 2023, Microsoft revealed that a group based in China had breached the email systems of multiple U.S. government agencies. This breach impacted around 10,000 organizations and almost went unnoticed. However, it is still unclear whether the company has resolved the violation since Microsoft presented its knowledge of the case. 

BlueBleed Data Leak Exposes About 548,000+ Users in October 2022

BlueBleed Data Leak

2. Microsoft’s Azure Blob Storage service had a misconfiguration in October 2022 that led to the exposure of personal data from more than 548,000 users. This data included names, email addresses, and phone numbers. However, to dismiss the entire scare, Microsoft said that the exposed information was not sensitive enough to require notifying the affected users. 

The Lapsus$ Group Breach of March 2022

Lapsus$ Group Breach

3. The Lapsus$ Group breach is the latest in Microsoft’s history. It happened on March 20, 2022, when the Lapsus$ group shared proof of breaching Microsoft’s system. The proof was a snapshot they had taken of Azure DevOps, a collaboration software of Microsoft. 

4. The snapshot showed evidence that Bing, Cortana, and other projects got compromised. Microsoft didn’t deny the proof immediately and even made a statement two days later, on March 22, to confirm the breach. 

5. However, they made it clear that there was no exposure to any consumer information and that they had rectified the hack before any spread. This statement was an exception for one threatened account but received immediate attention to clear it off. 

6. To Microsoft, the attack meant a lot of things, and it queried their security policies. Lapsus$, on the other hand, did what they did for the financial access it would grant them. 

Breach due to Misconfiguration in Power Apps – August 2021

Misconfiguration in Power Apps

7. A big data leak happened because of a mistake in Microsoft Power Apps. The online portal settings were incorrect, leading to the exposure of about 30 million records. These records were from more than 47 different companies that had put their data on platforms that anyone could access. Some of these companies were well-known ones like Ford Motors, New York MTA, and American Airlines, which is why the kind of data and its appearance were different. 

8. Some data was about employees, while others were about COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and tracing. Also, personal details got leaked, like social security numbers, where people live, their full names, and when they were born.

9. The company UpGuard, good at keeping things safe on the internet, found this problem. However, the company did not clarify whether bad people got to the information before it fixed the leak. Then, after investigation, they discovered that third-party companies were the ones who made the mistake, not Microsoft. 

10. The discovery didn’t stop Microsoft from being the main face of the attack, seeing that they made instructions to prevent people from seeing the data. 

Microsoft Azure Database and Customer Accounts Leak in August 2021

Microsoft Azure Database and Customer Accounts Leak

11. Security experts from Wiz claim they successfully breached Microsoft Azure’s database and customer accounts in August 2021. They were mainly exploring the system to find weaknesses in Azure’s database, and during their research, the experts could gain full access to various data. 

12. This data included customer account details and multiple databases. However, it’s unclear whether any other third parties accessed the data apart from the Wiz researchers.

13. This data breach in Microsoft Azure was solely the responsibility of Microsoft, as vulnerabilities in Cosmos D.B. created a gap that allowed access to the database. 

14. Additionally, the researchers could delete, modify, and download the information stored in the database. Hence, the incident highlighted the importance of addressing and fixing security issues promptly to protect sensitive data. 

LinkedIn Users Data Scrape

LinkedIn Users Data Scrape

15. Another Microsoft-related data breach was when bad players scraped the personal information of over 500 million LinkedIn users and offered it for sale. It is worth noting that the point of sale was a hacker’s forum, and the information was placed on auction.  

16. This data included details from public LinkedIn profiles, such as contact numbers and email addresses. The breach raised concerns about the security of user data on popular social media and professional networking platforms. 

17. Data breaches like this serve as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding personal information. However, there’s a need for continuous efforts to enhance online security and privacy.

Glitches in Microsoft Exchange Server

Glitches in Microsoft Exchange Server

18. This hack attack was one of the most extensive security incidents, involving over 60,000 hacking attempts on Microsoft Exchange servers. These attacks affected more than 30,000 American companies and 60,000 global companies. 

19. The breach was first detected in January 2021 when a security specialist noticed unusual activities on Microsoft Exchange servers. Someone was downloading emails from the server, and further investigation revealed more attempts to access confidential files and emails.

20. The breach exploited four zero-day vulnerabilities, allowing unauthorized access and enabling malicious parties to enter through system backdoors. Also, the breach helped to hijack servers and execute malware attacks. 

21. Microsoft swiftly released patches to fix these vulnerabilities, but the system’s security depended on the server owners applying these updates. When the server owners failed to apply updates, the risk of hacking persisted, resulting in more hacking attempts. 

22. It is worth noting that the total damage caused by this Microsoft data breach remains unspecified. However, the Biden administration attributed some of the attacks to China, particularly those from Hafnium, China. 

Microsoft and SolarWinds Customers Received Malicious Threats

Microsoft and SolarWinds Customers

23. The SolarWinds data breach was a significant security incident in December 2020. Russian hackers exploited vulnerabilities in SolarWinds, a well-known infrastructure management and monitoring software. They gained access to the SolarWinds system and used its built-in features to deploy malicious updates. 

24. These updates were sent to more than 18,000 customers, constituting a supply chain attack. This attack paved the way for hackers to infiltrate customer data, networks, and systems.

25. Once inside customer networks, the hackers used these systems to launch additional attacks. They also impersonated users to access files. Microsoft was among the targeted customers, leading to security breaches in Microsoft’s systems. The attack also had wide-reaching consequences, affecting various government agencies, including the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, FAA, and Department of Defense.

26. In the end, Microsoft acknowledged the breach, revealing that the attackers used specialized malware to steal data from the computers of customer service agents.

250 Million Customers Had Their Records Exposed

250 Million Customers Had Their Records Exposed

27. Microsoft had news in late 2019 and early 2020 that their customer support database got misconfigured. The breach would lead to the exposure of over 250 million customer records. 

28. Notably, this issue arose because the database remained unprotected by passwords for over a month, allowing anyone with a web browser to access the data. The exposed information had email addresses, I.P. addresses, and geographical and demographic details.

29. There were several concerns, but the top priority was that this Microsoft data breach made customers vulnerable to scammers. The exposed data made it easier for scammers to impersonate Microsoft customer support personnel when targeting these individuals. 

Credentials of Support Agent Breach

Credentials of Support Agent Breach

30. The Microsoft data breach in April 2019 occurred when hackers acquired the credentials of customer service agents. With these credentials, they accessed webmail accounts, including those with @hotmail.com, @outlook.com, and @msn.com domains. 

31. The compromised credentials allowed the attackers to access a limited dataset, which included folder names, subject lines, and email addresses. Although the number of compromised accounts remains uncertain, Microsoft stated that the breach affected a limited number. 

32. Notably, Microsoft assured that the breach did not expose login credentials, attachments, or the actual content of the emails. While the violation had an impact, it was limited in scope and did not compromise sensitive data like login information or email content.

Skype Accounts Got Hacked After Spam Messages

Skype Accounts Got Hacked After Spam Messages

33. In November 2016, reports emerged of spam messages sent through Microsoft Skype accounts, even when two-factor authentication is active. Microsoft clarified that the breach did not occur on their side. Instead, the attackers used stolen login credentials from other sources to access Skype accounts. 

34. However, the fact that two-factor authentication failed to prevent unauthorized access made Microsoft indirectly involved in the breach. This Microsoft data breach heightened due to the sign-in system that enabled users to link their Skype and Microsoft accounts. The issue also had ties to the storage of previous Skype passwords, which allowed hackers to sign in to Skype from other devices. 

35. The aftermath of this incident emphasized the importance of robust security measures and the need for strong authentication protocols.

Hotmail Credentials Listed for Sale

Hotmail Credentials Listed for Sale

36. Microsoft’s security experts discovered a data cache containing 272.3 million credentials. Most of these credentials were linked to a Russian email service, but approximately 33 million were related to accounts under Microsoft Hotmail. 

37. This Microsoft data breach became one of the most significant breaches of its kind and garnered public attention. Initially, this came to public attention when a Russian hacker discussed the data cache on an online forum. We are yet to say if Microsoft has completely survived this incident, but it was years ago, so most likely, yes. 

Microsoft Got Compromised Through Its Internal Bug Trackers

Microsoft Got Compromised

38. A compromised internal database at Microsoft surfaced in October 2017. This database was primarily used to track bugs and errors in Microsoft’s catalog.  

39. The attack occurred in 2013, but no one knew the extent of the breach as the firm didn’t disclose it to the public. However, some Microsoft employees have indicated that the database contained details about weaknesses in Microsoft’s operating systems and their products.

40. The information within the database was substantial and could enable hacking tools to exploit vulnerabilities. 

Xbox Users Had Their Credentials Exposed

Xbox Users Had Their Credentials Exposed

41. Three thousand active Xbox users had their login credentials, including names, emails, gamer tags, and birthdays, exposed when they participated in a prize draw poll. This information was published online and was inaccessible through hacking methods. 

42. However, it remains uncertain whether the attackers managed to capture this data. This incident also raised concerns about the security of user information on games. It also follows through on the importance of strict measures to protect sensitive data, even in seemingly harmless activities like prize draws. 

Malware was Delivered to Several Computers as a Microsoft Update

Malware was Delivered to Several Computers

43. The infiltration came to light in June 2012. The news was that hackers had managed to breach hundreds of computers by distributing malware disguised as a legitimate Microsoft update. 

44. They also created a fraudulent certification that exploited Microsoft’s algorithm for establishing remote desktop connections. 

45. However, the extent of damage was minute, as when security experts analyzed the facts, they discovered the breach affected less than 1,000 computers. Microsoft was not directly responsible, but this case is among the list of breaches made via their system. 

Microsoft Experienced Repeated Hack Exploitations by Xbox Underground

Microsoft Experienced Repeated Hack Exploitations

46. Xbox Underground, a hacking group, successfully infiltrated Microsoft’s systems multiple times from 2011 to 2013. This group gained access to computer networks and the credentials required to enter development kits and secure buildings. One outstanding case was when they also breached developer systems, including those belonging to Zombie Studios. 

47. Subsequently, legal action was taken against several group members, with David Pokora becoming the first hacker and the first foreign hacker to receive a jail sentence in the U.S. 

48. For his involvement in the Microsoft data breach, he served time in prison from 2014 to July 2015, wadding off potential successors. 

Microsoft BPOS Data Leak

Microsoft BPOS Data Leak

49. In December 2010, Microsoft announced the BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) leak. This incident enabled users to access the data of other customers due to a configuration error. 

50. The error allowed customers to access offline address books, which contained the contact information of employees. Then, Microsoft took the reins to clarify that the error only affected a few customers. They resolved the case within the next two hours, but it didn’t cover the already revealed flaw. 

51. Hackers exploited a zero-day flaw in Internet Explorer to breach American companies, including Google and Adobe. 

52. The hackers were able to use this flaw to gain the privileges of an authorized user, effectively taking complete control of the system. This exploit allowed them to view, delete, and modify data, as well as create new accounts. 

53. Using this vulnerability, the hackers downloaded malware onto Google’s computer system, granting them access to proprietary information.

54. The concerning aspect is that Microsoft was already aware of this security loophole and had planned to address it in a future Internet Explorer update. 

55. However, this breach prompted the release of the update against the time planned. 

How to Avoid Security Breaches

How to Avoid Security Breaches

The details in this article are about Microsoft, no doubt, but on a personal level, individuals should have protection against security breaches. Here are some common ways to avoid them

  • Strong Passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for each online account. Your password should include uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers. Consider using a reputable password manager to help create and store complex passwords securely.
  • Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Enabling 2FA wherever possible strengthens your device security. You must provide additional information, such as a one-time code sent to your phone, to access your accounts.
  • Update your Device’s Operating System Regularly: Keep your operating system, applications, and software updated with the latest security patches and updates. Cybercriminals often target known vulnerabilities, so staying current is crucial.
  • Phishing Awareness: Be cautious about unsolicited emails, links, or attachments, especially from unknown sources. Phishing attacks are a standard method for hackers to access your information. Verify the legitimacy of requests for personal or financial information.
  • Firewall and Antivirus: Install reputable firewall and antivirus software and regularly check for updates. These tools can help prevent and detect malicious software or intrusions. Run regular scans to identify and remove potential threats.

Conclusion

Microsoft has experienced several data breaches and security issues throughout its history, leading up to 2023. These breaches exposed vulnerabilities and exposed sensitive information. They ranged from early problems like the BPOS leak in 2010 to more recent breaches like SolarWinds, Lapsus$, and the Chinese.

These incidents have highlighted the ongoing challenges of safeguarding user data and digital systems. Although Microsoft has taken steps to address these problems and improve security, they serve as a reminder of the constant cybersecurity threats in today’s world. Therefore, it’s clear that maintaining strong security measures, promptly addressing breaches, and staying vigilant are essential to protecting our data and privacy.

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