Microsoft to alert email users to state hacks

Microsoft said on Wednesday it will alert its Outlook.com email users when it suspects the government has been trying to hack into their accounts, Reuters reported.

The world’s largest software company is the latest tech giant — joining Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo — to resist government intrusion into consumers’ privacy.

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Microsoft has for two years notified its users about potential security breaches but did not disclose the source of the attack. Online activists have long called for more specific threat reports.

“As the threat landscape has evolved our approach has too, and we’ll now go beyond notification and guidance to specify if we reasonably believe the attacker is ‘state-sponsored,’ ” Microsoft said in a statement to Reuters.

In a blog post published on Wednesday evening, Microsoft wrote, “We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be ‘state-sponsored’ because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others.”

Microsoft is shifting its policy after failing to alert leaders in China’s Tibetan and Uighur minorities of a hacking campaign, discovered in 2011, believed to be carried out by the Chinese government.

The company and U.S. officials said they could not confirm the source of the cyberattack, but two former employees told Reuters the company concluded several years ago that Chinese authorities were behind it.

Former employees also told Reuters the attacks targeted diplomats, members of the media, human rights lawyers and others inside of China.