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Massive security breach affects Hotmail users

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Updated A catastrophic breach in Hotmail security means that anyone who has one of the freebie mail accounts can have his or her emails read by others. At the same time, the breach means that once people have logged into the system, they can send, receive and delete emails using that account to their heart's content. The breach, just tested by The Register using one of our own writer's Hotmail accounts, and found to work, uses a Web address in which you type a hotmail handle. You then have full access to that Hotmail account, with all rights. When we logged into the server, which was based in Sweden, we were able to send and receive mail from our account. The ISP hosting that site, now appears to have taken the Web interface down. Microsoft brought down Hotmail when it heard about the problem and has apparently said it has fixed the problem. But the fact it existed in the first place must pose serious questions about how safe such freemail accounts are, and whether it is possible for hackers to do the same thing again. End users were still reporting serious problems with Hotmail four hours after we filed our own story, as it attempted to cope with repeated attempts by people to use alternative Web sites that have sprung up across the world. As yet, it is impossible to assess how many end user's Hotmail accounts were hacked into before the problem was addressed.®

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