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Microsoft exposes green users' privates in web quiz snafu

Web design 101 guys, this is basic stuff

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Microsoft has plugged a flaw in its Greener IT Challenge website that leaked the names and email addresses of users who took a quiz on the site.

Users who passed the quiz by demonstrating their knowledge of buying environmentally sensitive PCs, choosing minimal power use options for new computers and how to dispose of obsolete IT kit safely were given a certificate.

The certificate is displayed at the end of the multiple-choice test, at which point a PDF version can be downloaded for printing.

However some "bad form" web-design meant that these PDF versions of the certificates were allocated in numerical order, on an unencrypted website open to world+dog. It would have been a simple matter for spammers or other miscreants to run a script and harvest hundreds of email addresses. The information might then be usable in spam runs or (worse) phishing campaigns.

In a statement, Microsoft told El Reg that the problem was "fully resolved".

“We have now resolved this issue so all users are anonymous and their information is private,” it said.

In fairness to Microsoft we're only talking about email addresses and names here, and not highly sensitive information like credit card numbers. Nonetheless, people are entitled to hold Microsoft to high standards in web design; something it (or a third-party agency acting in its name) failed to live up to on this occasion. ®

Bootnote

A hat tip to Reg reader Marc for his "quick tip on some 'bad form' web-design," as he put it.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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