We Knew About The Hacker All Along - Microsoft

A hacker had access to its computer system for 12 days, according to a statement by Microsoft Corp. on Sunday, refuting earlier reports that the intruder had gained access to the company over a period of five weeks. The software giant also reportedly said it had monitored the illegal activity the entire time, though it did not inform federal law officers until Oct. 26. An Associated Press report said the company continued to insist that while no major corporate secrets were stolen, at least one security expert believes the 12-day period was plenty of time for a hacker to do damage that may not have yet been detected.

AP cited Microsoft spokesman Rick Miller as saying Sunday that beginning Oct. 14 a hacker gained access to high-level secrets and that at some point over the next 12 days viewed blueprints, or source code, for software still in development. Miller explained that the company was alerted to the break-in by the creation of new accounts allowing access to various parts of Microsoft's computer network. AP quotes him as saying, "We start seeing these new accounts being created, but that could be an anomaly of the system. After a day or two, we realized it was someone hacking into the system." He added that the activity did not corrupt or modify any source codes.

A Reuters report said the high-profile incident highlights major security holes that computer experts say plague a surprising number of Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley corporations with weak or disorganized safeguards.

The report said some analysts fear the break-in may usher in a new era in which viruses, now most often the playthings of pranksters, become serious tools for professionals with corporate theft or extortion in mind.

Reuters cited figures from the San Francisco-based Computer Security Institute, which show that nine out of 10 companies and government organizations surveyed reported security breaches in the last year, and of the 42 percent willing or able to quantify damages and financial losses, the total ran to $265 million. Reuters also said the 'QAZ' virus may have been implanted in the Microsoft attack and that the intruders broke into the corporate network through the computer of an employee working outside the office, possibly at home.

A report by United Press International (UPI) on the weekend warned that the cyber-duel currently raging between Israel and Palestinian hackers could spill over into the US, according to the FBI.

UPI said the FBI issued an alert Thursday night warning that the hacker attacks aimed at Web sites run by the Israeli government and pro-Palestinian resistance movements could affect US computers, either unintentionally or as direct attacks.

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