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Microsoft made customer details - along with numerous confidential internal documents - freely available from a deeply insecure FTP server earlier this month.

A well as numerous PowerPoint slides, such as Linux Vs Windows comparisons and .NET strategy papers, Microsoft "published" files an estimated 11 million customer email addresses and seven million snail mail address on the server.

Andreas Marx, a security consultant with German firm Gega IT-Solutions, blames a poorly implemented security policy on the problem. Microsoft has since purged confidential data from the server, but you have to wonder why the data was made so readily available to spammers and goodness knows who else in the first place. The social engineering potential of such leaked data is particularly alarming.

Microsoft's FTP server was designed to exchange data between Microsoft and its customers, mainly for patches.

It was also used by Microsoft staff to upload other kind of files, which they could then download while out of the office. Staff apparently treated it as a secure internal server for data exchange.

It wasn't and that's why numerous confidential files become available to world+dog.

The files with the big customer database were called email*.zip and dmail*.zip. There were also smaller files including customer information related to various Microsoft marketing campaigns, for Tablet PC and Windows Server among other initiatives. Samples from the files, seen by The Register, reveal that customer contact numbers, names and email addresses were all leaked because of the breach.

All these confidential files were protected by the same password which was easily defeated by standard password-cracking tools, another point Microsoft would do well to note in reviewing its security policy. ®

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