Security Advisor

Microsoft Employee Info Being Hacked Through Xbox Live

And one security expert unravels the tangled web of related attacks.

Microsoft confirmed today that both former and current Microsoft employees had personal information stolen from hackers through their Xbox Live accounts, Microsoft's paid online service for its Xbox 360 console.

"We are aware that a group of attackers are using several stringed social engineering techniques to compromise the accounts of a handful of high-profile Xbox Live accounts held by current and former Microsoft employees," said Microsoft in a released statement. "We are actively working with law enforcement and other affected companies to disable this current method of attack and prevent its further use. Security is of critical importance to us and we are working every day to bring new forms of protection to our members."

While info on the specific "stringed social engineering" technique were not available, the most common practice involves the attacker pretending to be the targeted account holder to receive information, like log-in names and password resets.

Due to the similarities between this week's Xbox Live hacks and last year's attack on Wired reporter Mat Honan, in which he had his Google and Twitter accounts deleted, and his AppleID account compromised (leading to the complete data deletion on his iPhone, iPad and MacBook) by a hacker with a serious beef  nicknamed "Phobia," the events are believed to be connected.

And Brian Krebs, security expert and Krebs on Security blogger, was the one to put the pieces together that it was the same individual involved in both. But, that only came after his own encounter with the hacker.
After releasing a story about how stolen credit score reports of celebrities were being sold over the Internet, those involved made false break-in reports to the police, causing Krebs to be confronted by cops in a case of mistaken identity. His site was also attacked by a denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

Instead of cowering under the mighty power of the hackers, Krebs put his security prowess to work and discovered that the DDoS attacks were perpetrated by a group that ran one of the same credit report sites he reported on earlier in the week.

So how does this connect to the Xbox Live attacks? Krebs received an e-mail last weekend from someone who he believes to be part of a ring of hackers that both operated the credit score-selling site and are a part of an Xbox gamer team called "Team Hype."

"'They hack/social engineer Gamertags off Microsoft employees by using SSNs,' the source wrote," according to Krebs. "'I didn't DDoS your site and I didn't SWAT you, Phobia has been telling everyone he did. The method he released he said he gets SSNs, then calls phone companies and redirects the number and than gets xbox phone support to call number and confirm. I heard he got pissed that you released the site he uses. Also Trojan told a buddie of mines fear (on AIM) something about a dead body in your closet about your swat.'"

While a bit hard to understand due to the hacker writing in a style more commonly reserved for 12-year-old girls, Krebs did confirm that the sender of the e-mail was telling the truth because of certain information that the sender provided that only Krebs' Internet Provider would have known.

Unfortunately, little else is known about "Phobia" besides the connections between the Xbox Live hack, last year's attack on Mat Honan and the recent headaches of Brian Krebes.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for and


  • How To Configure Windows 10 for Intel Optane Memory

    Intel's Optane memory technology can significantly improve the performance of your Windows 10 system -- provided you enable it correctly. A single mistake can render the system unbootable. Here's how to do it the right way.

  • Microsoft and SAP Enhance Partnership with Teams Integration

    Microsoft and SAP this week described continuing partnership efforts on Microsoft Azure, while also planning a Microsoft Teams integration with SAP's enterprise resource planning product and other solutions.

  • Blue Squares Graphic

    Microsoft Previews Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows

    Microsoft announced a preview of Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows, which lets organizations tap Linux virtual machine processes that also work with Windows- and Azure-based processes and services.

  • How To Automate Tasks in Azure SQL Database

    Knowing how to automate tasks in the cloud will make you a more productive DBA. Here are the key concepts to understand about cloud scripting and a rundown of the best tools for automating code in Azure.

comments powered by Disqus