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Microsoft's .Net Ad Campaign Likely Finished; Victim of Site Crashes

Jan 26, 2001, 19:52 (33 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jim Wagner)

By Jim Wagner

Executives at Microsoft Corp., a company famous for its employees pulling all-nighters, are likely going to be doing the same this weekend as they try to figure out what went wrong.

The software giant had what any high-tech organization would deem "a bad week," with repeated Domain Name Servers problems that caused system-wide shutdowns throughout the week, at one time for as long as 23 hours. As a result, Microsoft Web sites worldwide went offline.

It's a problem that might lead the company to scrap its $200 million ad campaign promoting .Net services, announced Monday, and work to revamp its entire network infrastructure.

.Net service is a combined package of its Microsoft Office, Visual Studio and bCentral, and the foundation for what Microsoft planned as an empire moving from the PC to the Internet.

In the future, officials had planned on applications running over the Web, instead of through the home computer's hard drive, thus ensuring the company's existence well into the first decade of the 21st century.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Giga Information Group, said this week's setbacks effectively destroyed its still-fresh campaign and any Web dynasty hopes.

"It's destroyed," Enderle said. "While they're running a big campaign talking about the reliability of MS products is not the time to have major outages at the site, particularly for sites as visible as Microsoft. (The outages) pretty much destroyed their advertising campaign, and any value they might have achieved from that campaign is pretty much gone.

"In fact, there's even a risk that the campaign will become an industry joke," Enderle said

Microsoft officials still claim a technician, who incorrectly configured its network of DNS servers, was to blame for the blackout Tuesday night and Wednesday of popular sites like MSN.com, MSNBC.com, Encarta.com and Hotmail.com. Even after the DNS servers were fixed, many customers still reported spotty reliability getting onto a Microsoft Web site.

That, in turn, officials say, weakened its network enough for malicious hackers, called crackers, to find to blitz the network Thursday with a Denial of Service attack that brought the site to its knees for the second time this week. Microsoft reports its network was down about five hours before the sites were restored.

Microsoft placed a call to Federal Bureau of Investigations after the DoS, although its uncertain what can be done.

According to a member of the FBI's press office, there is not much that can be done after the attack is over with, although agents take the report and run a preliminary investigation.

Industry and security analysts were left shaking their heads after learning Microsoft kept all its DNS servers running on one IP subnet on the same network. The setup ensured that a DoS attack, or common system failure, could bring down Microsoft's entire collection of Web sites.

"This showed an exposure that should not have existed at Microsoft," Enderle said. "It indicates that there is a critical problem that needs to be repaired in the way they laid out their entire network and it will take them a while to come up with a plan to not only address this exposure but to address other exposures that are likely to occur.

"What basically happened," Enderle continued, "is that somebody was sleeping on the switch and probably was for some time and the end result is they undoubtedly have to change a large part of their infrastructure. And the first part of doing that is to come up with a plan so that they're not creating more problems in the process."

Microsoft officials were unavailable for comment.

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