All Dixons Group's Web sites down

But isn't too keen on telling us why or for how long

Updated All Dixons Group's Web sites are down and have been for at least 24 hours. That includes PCWorld.com and co.uk, Dixons.com and co.uk, Currys.co.uk and TheLink.com and co.uk.

All the sites are blank save a coloured backdrop, the company logo and the message: "We apologise for any inconvenience caused, however you can still purchase from our great range of products by calling one of our sales advisors."

Then a number depending on the store in question appears.

Despite having called the company an hour ago though, we have heard nothing back, which usually means the people that know what's going on are running around in a panic trying to fix it.

It clearly isn't a site upgrade and a DDoS attack looks unlikely, but they've got some kind of serious problem requiring all sites to be pulled. We'll let you know what Dixons has to say when it gets around to calling back. ®

Update

No explanation yet from Dixons but we've had a chat with security experts to try to narrow down the field of possibilities for the problem.

Mark Read, professional services consultant at MIS Corporate Defence, said that since the site can still be easily accessed that would appear to rule out a DDoS attack, or a connectivity problem. There's no record of defacements on any of the major archives (such as Alldas.de) so that looks unlikely too. Also putting up a hacked server in the temporary state it is in without a thorough audit after a security breach would be foolish, Read told us.

The prime suspect, at this stage, is a software fault with Dixons' backend servers (we're speculating here, but that's all we can do until Dixons get back to us. The affected sites run IIS 4 Web servers with SQL Server and a ecommerce engine from BroadVision.

Update II - Dixons gets back

Dixons has got back to us saying the site's should be up any time soon. The reason they were taken down was for "routine maintenance" we were told. Expressing heavy scepticism over this explanation, the spokesman admitted that the company had "felt it prudent to put in an additional security enhancement" to the system although there is no issue with customers' details. It is not know whether that enhancement was down to the company use of Microsoft's "swiss cheese" IIS server.

Various readers have suggested it was thanks to a Dixons' cock-up which saw a £399 widescreen TV going for just £99. Dixons changed the price soon after the mistake was posted on a newsgroup but only removed the front page and people soon realised they could bypass it by putting a different number at the end of the URL.