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Hackers mar three Microsoft sites

Web sites in the United Kingdom, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are hit by a group called Prime Suspectz, which taunted the software powerhouse with claims of victory.

Hackers defaced three Microsoft Web pages on Thursday, taking control of the sites briefly and replacing the company's greetings with their own messages.

Web sites for Microsoft's operations in the United Kingdom, Mexico and Saudi Arabia were hit by a hacker group calling itself Prime Suspectz, which altered all three sites with small messages claiming victory over the software powerhouse, according to Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler.

Prime Suspectz has attacked Microsoft before, and this hit marks the ninth time a Microsoft Web site has been defaced by hackers, according to hacker monitoring site Attrition.org. Hackers have also gained entry to Microsoft sites in Brazil and Slovenia and at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

At the U.K. Web site, the defacement read "Prime Suspectz owned Microsoft again" and "Thank you for visiting." After a few seconds, visitors were redirected to the correct Microsoft page. The Mexican and Saudi sites had similar defacements, and all three returned to normal soon after the hit, Desler said.

Microsoft's server software has become a favorite target for computer hackers. The company suffered a major incursion in January, in what it called a "deplorable act of industrial espionage."

Although Thursday's attacks did no damage and were more a taunt than anything else, they were further embarrassment for the company, which just two days ago sent out a warning about a serious flaw that affects Windows 2000 server software running version 5.0 of Internet Information Server (IIS).

Desler was quick to point out that the U.K. and Mexico sites are managed by a third-party company and are not on Microsoft's corporate network. The company is still investigating whether the Saudi Web site was managed by a third party as well.

"There was no consumer data or Microsoft-sensitive data on any of these sites," Desler said.

The method by which the hackers broke into the Web sites is still being investigated, he said.