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Hotmail outage triggered by security concern

Microsoft shuts down its free email service for close to an hour after the company discovers a security breach that could have compromised member accounts.

Microsoft today shut down its free Hotmail email service for close to an hour after the company discovered a security breach that could have compromised member accounts.

According to a Microsoft representative, the shutdown was in reaction to a public posting that described how JavaScript code could allow a Hotmail user to access other people's accounts. The JavaScript code was being sent around as an attachment to other Hotmail users.

The shutdown lasted for less than an hour during midmorning PT, according to the Microsoft representative.

As of this morning, people trying to enter their Hotmail accounts were greeted by a message informing them of the problem.

"We apologize, but your account is temporarily unavailable. This delay does not affect the entire site or relate specifically to your account, but the machine that holds your account information is temporarily unavailable," part of the message read.

Hotmail is not the only free email provider to suffer from malicious account-stealing exploits recently. Yesterday, Yahoo, Excite@Home and USA.net implemented safeguards against a password-stealing exploit, in which a malicious email sender could lead account holders to a bogus but convincing password-entry screen.

The Microsoft representative said that the exploit affecting Yahoo yesterday was not related to today's Hotmail incident.

The outage also comes a few weeks after Microsoft patched a password-stealing bug in Hotmail.