Feeds

Microsoft: Mystery bug blocks Syrian secure Hotmail

Sun worshipers and fat cats hit too

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Microsoft is blaming a mystery bug for preventing access to the encrypted version of Hotmail, denying that it deliberately blocked access to the service in Syria.

On Friday afternoon, the company told The Reg that Hotmail users who had already enabled the HTTPS version of the popular email service were still able to use it. Only Hotmailers trying to turn on HTTPS for the first time in certain countries and languages were being blocked, Microsoft said.

People trying to connect were greeted with the message: "Your Windows Live ID can't use HTTPS automatically because this feature is not available for your account type."

Microsoft said it still doesn't know what caused the bug, but it has been resolved and the company is investigating the cause. "We do not intentionally limit support by region or geography and this issue was not restricted to any specific region of the world. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers that this may have caused," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

The company said users in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Fiji were also affected.

Microsoft made HTTPS available for Hotmail inbox, calendar, and contacts in November of last year.

The issue was first flagged by a Syrian user who posted a screen grab to TwitPic here. That sparked concern across the Tweet-o-sphere that Microsoft had blocked HTTPS in some countries or regions.

The user is a computer engineering student apparently based at the University of Jordan, in Amman. On Friday, Security forces in Syria reportedly shot and killed protesters in the cities of Dara'a and Sanamein who had been demanding freedom, food, and jobs. There were protests in the capital Damascus too, as part of a nationwide call for change called "day of dignity".

Security and privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian suggested HTTPS was being blocked not just in Syria, but in Egypt too. Soghoian, graduate fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research in Washington DC, said on Twitter that he'd set his Hotmail country to Egypt by default and that HTTPS had been prohibited. He then set his country to Israel and HTTPS by default was allowed. He tweeted: "Hotmail HTTPS feature seems to depend on country set in preferences... not the IP you are connecting from."

Microsoft introduced HTTPS in Hotmail to protect users log-ins, emails and other information from hackers and other unwanted scrutiny. Also, in November, SkyDrive, Photos, Docs, and Devices pages all started to use SSL encryption.

HTTPS was not extended to Outlook Hotmail Connector, Windows Live Mail, and Windows Live for Windows Mobile 6.5 - and older - and Symbian phones. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.