Following in the footsteps of Twitter, Facebook and Google, Microsoft promises to notify users of its e-mail (Outlook) and cloud storage (OneDrive) services if government hackers may have targeted their accounts.
The company already notifies users if an unauthorized person tries to access their Outlook or OneDrive accounts. But from now on, the company will also inform if it suspects government-sponsored hackers.
Ex-Employee: Microsoft Didn’t Notify When China Spied Tibetans Leaders
The move could be taken in the wake of the claims made by Microsoft’s former employees that several years ago Chinese government hacked into more than a thousand Hotmail email accounts of international leaders of Tibetan and Uighur minorities, but the company decided not to tell the victims, allowing the hackers to continue their campaign.
Instead of alerting those leaders of the hacking attempts, Microsoft simply recommended them to change their passwords without disclosing the reason, after an internal debate in 2011, Reuters reported
However, Microsoft announced Wednesday that if the company strongly suspects that your account is being hijacked or targeted by hackers working in the interest of a nation-state, it will notify you via an email.
Here’s what Microsoft Vice President Scott Charney writes
“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. These notifications do not mean that Microsoft’s own systems have in any way been compromised.”
Just last week, Yahoo promised to alert its users whom it suspected were being spied on by state-sponsored hackers. Other big tech companies including Twitter, Facebook and Google, had previously assured their users that they would notify them of any potential government spying.
And now Microsoft is the latest company to join the list.
Government: We’ll Sue You if You Do That!
This is a good news for Microsoft users, but it seems that the United Kingdom is not happy with this decision by all the major tech firms, because the country seeks access to personal communications in order to fight terrorism and protect national security.
The UK government is pushing
a new Investigatory Powers Bill that will take the bosses of any company that warns its users that security organizations, such as GCHQ
(the Government Communications Headquarters), MI5
, are spying on them.
Specifically, UK ministers want to make it a criminal offence for Twitter, Google and other tech firms under which they could face up to two years in prison.
Google, AWS and IBM already offer incentives for start-ups to join them.
Microsoft is trying to lure start-ups and SME’s to its Azure profile by offering them $500,000 in Azure credits.