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January 25, 2001

A Microsoft worker has been blamed for stopping millions of e-mails being sent by internet users in the US and Europe.

Hackers had initially been mooted as a possible source of the problem which for several hours hit the free Hotmail service, one of the most popular in the world run by the multi-million pound software giant.

Computer users were also denied access to Microsoft's corporate website, and the Expedia travel and the Carpoint shopping services.

The company later published an apology on its own site, saying the problem had been caused by "a configuration change to the routers on the edge of Microsoft's Domain Name Server network." The services were later reported to be running normally.


The collapse of the domain name servers meant that users typing '' into their internet browsers were unable to access the site - even though the site itself was still perfectly operational.

The 'domain name' system can be likened to storing friends' numbers on a mobile phone. To make a call, you look through the list of names and choose the one you want. Your phone cross-references it against the numbers stored in its memory, and puts you through: you don't need to know, or even see, the number.

Likewise, computers on the Internet rely on numerical addresses to locate and communicate with each other, rather than the word-based addresses quoted to the public. If a signal cannot find the relevant 'directory' to turn the words into numbers, it will not get through.

Never popular

Microsoft has never been a popular company among the hacking fraternity, with many excusing their activities as an attempt to expose flaws in the company's products.

There was initial speculation that the outage was a direct result of a deliberate attempt at disruption - using the same 'denial of service' technique which brought Yahoo, CNN and Amazon to a standstill last year.

It also comes days after a successful hack into the company's New Zealand web site by the renowned 'prime suspectz' hacking crew.

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