Continued outages on Microsoft's Web sites raise
questions about the company's bold new .NET initiative, which
encourages users to store their files on Microsoft's Web servers.
The past few days have shown the Redmond-based software giant is
vulnerable to attacks by hackers and mistakes by its own
technicians a point acknowledged by the company Friday after
hackers again caused problems for some people trying to access the
company's Web sites.
The Redmond software maker said it experienced a so-called
"denial-of-service" attack, similar to one that occurred Thursday
and blocked access to sites such as Microsoft's main page, MSN.com
and Hotmail.com sites that serve millions of users.
"Through the painful lessons we've learned this week, we've
already taken steps to change the architecture of our network
infrastructure to improve its reliability and availability for
customers," said Rick Devenuti, Microsoft vice president and chief
information officer, in a statement.
The attack did not affect all cutomers, Microsoft spokesman Adam
Sohn said. Many were still able to access the Web sites throughout
the day and noticed no change in service, he said.
Web surfers were blocked from Microsoft Web sites starting
Tuesday night. Microsoft restored the sites Wednesday after 22
hours, blaming it on a technician who reconfigured the network
equipment that directs Internet traffic.
The next day, when sites were again inaccessible, the company
said it was a victim of a so-called "denial-of-sevice" attack.
Hackers flooded Microsoft's the equipment with fake traffic, thus
blocking any legitimate Internet traffic, which meant consumers
were again unable to access Microsoft sites.
The company maintained the initial outage was not related to the
events of Thursday and Friday. It was trying to determine whether
the Thursday and Friday attacks were related.
Eric Siegel, a consultant at Keynote Systems Inc., a company
that monitors Web site performance, said his 120 monitors reached
microsoft.com about 8 percent of the time and msn.com about 10
percent Friday, while normally the sites have 98 percent or greater
Some experts say it could have happened to any company, but the
problems have been embarrassing for Microsoft, which is trying to
encourage users to rely more heavily on the Internet as part of its
.NET strategy, which turns its software into Net-based services.
"Microsoft is going to have to show a certain amount of
robustness before people are willing to buy into this," said Ryan
Russell, incident analyst with SecurityFocus.com.
Customers may be hesitant to trust Microsoft after several days
of spotty Internet connection, said Gerald Altieri, network system
engineer with Roseville Online, an Internet service provider in
"It's going to put some more doubts in people's minds about
having computers based solely on the Internet," he said.
With .NET, programs, word processing files and spreadsheets
would be stored on larger computers that would be made accessible
on the Internet, rather than on the hard drives of individual
The software would be able to work with a variety of devices,
including PCs, cellular phones and handheld computers. A
programming language called XML (for extensible Markup Language)
helps link users to the data they need.
Microsoft's new .NET strategy faces tough competition against
rivals Sun Microsystems and Oracle Corp., which make large server
systems, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group.
"The large-scale systems are seen as more reliable. So when
they break, people say it's an exception," he said.
"(Microsoft's) smaller PC-based systems are viewed as unreliable.
They break; they're still unreliable. It's more important for
challenging technology to demonstrate they do not have these
Microsoft lags behind Sun Microsystems and Oracle in large
Microsoft spokesman Sohn said that Tuesday's error could not be
blamed on the quality of the company's products, but a foul-up in
the configuration of Microsoft's domain-name servers the computer
software that matches users with a particular address on the
It should not reflect on Microsoft .NET or the company's $200
million advertising campaign launched Monday that stresses the
reliability of its enterprise software, Sohn said.
"We serve millions and millions of customers, virtually without
fail," he said. "Unfortunately, we had an operational mistake
with unintended consequences that lead to those sites appearing