Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Microsoft India store got hacked: Bad news for many reasons



In a somewhat bizarre and embarrassing turn of events, it is reported that the Microsoft Online Store in India got hacked by a group of Hackers with its online users database in jeopardy. On 12th of Feb, visitors to that site was for a shock when they saw the main page was displaying a masked face (Anonymous style!) on a dark background, instead of the usual weekly offers! The hacker group responsible for this calls itself "Evil shadow Team", an outfit we haven't very much heard of before. It seems like the owners of the website have regained control since but the site itself is still out of service as at the time of this writing. Anyway, what is of greater concern is that the whole user database including e-mail addresses, user names, pass-words or even physical addresses got compromised in the process. The hacker group claimed that the user database was in form of plain text (!!), not encrypted or secured by other security measures thus making it an easy prey. This is not only embarrassing for Microsoft but also asks questions about methods deployed in maintaining and safekeeping of the site.

This news comes as a blow to many of us in the Indian online enthusiast community. The site in question here is well known and visited one and also regarded as one of the better online stores in India. I personally frequent this site and actually know someone who bought a MS Arc mice/keyboard combo from them. Microsoft relies on a third party to run this site from what I know, but still the software giant can't avoid the responsibility, especially when the privacy of its own customers base is under threat. We expect better service from a company of Microsoft's stature. I mean selling reasonably priced versions of Windows and Office programs is a good strategy but when it comes at the cost of consumers' privacy and inconvenience- it does not feel that much good!

There is however another reason, an often overlooked one, why news like these are unwelcome. Online trading/marketing of computer hardware/software in India is still in its infancy. Don't be fooled by the numbers of online stores, the actual sales numbers are rather unflattering. Most of the online tech stores here in India are in an abysmal state and lack the professionalism to successfully compete with the widespread and much stronger retail market. And that is the reason why the vast majority of users still depend on the traditional retail shops. With overgrowing internet penetration however, things are changing (albeit in slow pace) and there are more and more people now looking up to the online stores as an alternative. But incidents like these don't instill confidence in them, now do they?

News Source - engadget.com, techpowerup.com
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