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Microsoft Communications

Some Hotmail Accounts Wiped 298

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-didn't-need-that,-right? dept.
tomhudson writes "PC Magazine reports that many Hotmail accounts have lost all their emails. Users' entire email histories have apparently been lost. 'Users can still log in sans issue. However, they arrive at empty inboxes: No custom folders, no messages in "Sent" or "Deleted," nothing. As one might expect, the abruptness (and unexpectedness) of the purge has left some of Hotmail's long-time users a bit in the dark.'"
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Some Hotmail Accounts Wiped

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  • I would have thought that any long term hotmail users must have been in the dark a long time ago, not to see the light of gmail. /googleFan. We have it forced on us by my university, and as soon as it was possible, I set up everything to forward to my gmail account. Havent had to use the shoddy interface in a long time.
    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:41AM (#34736850) Journal

      Although I also prefer Gmail, you're being extremely naive if you think any remotely hosted and controlled service is immune to issues of this nature. This should be as good a reminder as any for all of us to set up local backups for our email services.

      On that note, does anyone have any recommendations for backup software/file formats? I seem to remember that last time I looked into the issue there seemed to be some lack of standardisation when looking for an open 'email archive' format to use.

      • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:02AM (#34736934)

        I do trust Gmail to have better data integrity because they are more open about their architecture and having read about it, I think it's well designed.

        I don't have any expectation of them caring about my email apart from its data-mining value though.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:02AM (#34736936)

        Wait a minute. I'm a manager, and I've been reading a lot of case studies and watching a lot of webcasts about The Cloud. Based on all of this glorious marketing literature, I, as a manager, have absolutely no reason to doubt the safety of any data put in The Cloud.

        The case studies all use words like "secure", "MD5", "RSS feeds" and "encryption" to describe the security of The Cloud. I don't know about you, but that sounds damn secure to me! Some Clouds even use SSL and HTTP. That's rock solid in my book.

        And don't forget that you have to use Web Services to access The Cloud. Nothing is more secure than SOA and Web Services, with the exception of perhaps SaaS. But I think that Cloud Services 2.0 will combine the tiers into an MVC-compliant stack that uses SaaS to increase the security and partitioning of the data.

        My main concern isn't with the security of The Cloud, but rather with getting my Indian team to learn all about it so we can deploy some first-generation The Cloud applications and Web Services to provide the ultimate platform upon which we can layer our business intelligence and reporting, because there are still a few verticals that we need to leverage before we can move to The Cloud 2.0.

        • Hello, I'm working for $bigcorp and I would like to sell you The Cloud. You will see our rates are affordable and we boost your productivity by a magnitude you cannot even imagine yet! Best of all, it will seamlessly integrate with your Indian team (after all, one of the big features of The Cloud is that it's, well, distributed. Distributed like your production, you see, it already fits perfectly!). At the final integration step, you will even no longer have to rely on your team in India should they become

          • by Mathinker (909784) *

            it will seamlessly integrate with your Indian team (after all, one of the big features of The Cloud

            Of course! Indians have been using beta version (smoke) clouds for communication since prehistoric times!

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          The case studies all use words like "secure", "MD5"

          For those who STILL don't get that this is a joke (see other comments), MD5 has been cracked.

        • by fermion (181285)
          Not a cloud issue. A freebie issue. It is expected that free services will lack funds for redundancy and customer service. I have been storing data on "the cloud: for 10 years, and it has proven a very useful tool.
      • by JustOK (667959) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:04AM (#34736948) Journal

        use gmail, then use thunderbird to dl (without deleting from server) and something like mozbackup

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cavebison (1107959)

          Exactly. I would never use any web-based email service which didn't support pop/imap.

          If your emails are important, it's simply stupid to rely on an external service to whom your account's integrity is of little consequence. Nothing beats having a local copy and doing your own backups.

          Speaking of backups, there was a short period of time when the average person was just starting to get the idea of doing regular backups of their info (it's unbelievable that no OS I've seen has an intelligent backup service).

      • by hedwards (940851)
        I don't trust Gmail not to lose my email, that's why I download all of it to my computer via imap. The nice thing about gmail is that they allow you to upload emails back to the server if need be.

        I learned that lesson that time that Google lost those emails and couldn't back them up. Fortunately, I wasn't affected by that.

        Even with good design and careful management there's always the possibility of something being lost. Even in the idealized constant backups scenario it might mean that you're without
      • by Nirac (1347363)
        I use Thunderbird to save them to eml. Outlook will also save to eml, and I'm sure most desktop clients will as well.

        Quoting Wikipedia here, "Used by many email clients including Microsoft Outlook Express, Windows Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird.[36] The files are plain text in MIME format, containing the email header as well as the message contents and attachments in one or more of several formats."

        Hopefully I'm not misunderstanding what you're asking for.
      • by robmv (855035)

        even if you use only the web fontend of GMail, you could setup an email client like Thunderbird with IMAP, if you only care to backup the emails and not the labels hierarchy, just tell GMail the only label you want to publish on IMAP is "All Mail" and setup you email client to sync that folder

      • by jthill (303417)
        Just set up POP access and use any client that uses mbox format. It's bog-standard. Thunderbird does it. I'm sure opinions differ on what's best but this certainly works for me. Been using it for almost a decade now, one big archive, no slowdown, a high-traffic mailing list for my searching pleasure.
    • by Jaktar (975138)

      Why not maintain both? It's trivial to setup access through MS mail and Thunderbird. If you do use a mail client, there's no need to use their "shoddy" interface and they all look the same.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by gcerullo (1573093)

      I've taken the extra step of not only forwarding all email received by my Hotmail account to my Gmail account. I also forward all mail received by my Gmail account to my Hotmail account. Although, shortly after implementing this strategy, I've noticed a lot of duplicate emails in each inbox and my mailboxes keep filling up. It's not even SPAM, it's just the same messages being repeated over and over and over again.

    • My account is pre-Microsoft and I still use it. Mind you I haven't used it for anything other than a spam box in over 10 years. I've logged into my account and it seems fine.
  • I use Zimbra, but whatever tool you use, do periodically slurp your webmail and back it up.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:33AM (#34736788) Homepage

    Maybe they finally tried to switch Hotmail over to Windows NT...

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      I get the joke you're trying to make, but it's worth pointing out that this was not only done long ago, it was done using a relatively unknown capability of NT - the POSIX subsystem that allows apps written for Unix-like operating systems to run unmodified (aside from a recompile) on NT. It was actually one of the first major uses of this subsystem, since at the time there was no way to move Hotmail onto Win32 without re-writing it.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The POSIX subsystem is well known... to suck, because it only implements POSIX v1 and not POSIX v2 like the whole Unix world has moved on to, nominally including the various free Unixes. That's why the MKS toolkit used to sell like mad, and why Cygwin and Services for Unix exist today.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        OK I admit it was a pretty lame attempt at humor. I figured it might be good for a few karma points here on Slashdot but apparently not... :_(

        For the youngsters: The whole point of Microsoft's acquisition of Hotmail was to port it from FreeBSD/Solaris to Windows NT, thus _proving_ to the world that NT was enterprise-ready and capable of running a large website (Hotmail was one of the most heavily loaded websites in the world at the time).

        It took them many years to complete and was the butt of many jokes...e

  • by msauve (701917) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:35AM (#34736806)
    you get what you pay for. If email is valuable to you, back it up yourself, or get a service which provides an SLA (uptime, backup, etc). MS's Hotmail specifically says they're not responsible for loss of data. But, people use it because it's free, then want to bitch when there's a problem.
    • Re:Simple... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Andy Smith (55346) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:44AM (#34736860) Homepage

      "MS's Hotmail specifically says they're not responsible for loss of data"

      Whereas the likely truth is that they _are_ responsible for loss of data, but they don't _accept_ responsibility.

      • Actually it has been Hotmail policy to wipe your account if you don't use it for a while. I think it was 30 days. Can't remember as I haven't used Hotmail in 5 or 6 years. I do remember setting a reminder to check my Hotmail account monthly or else I would lose all the spam I hadn't read yet.
        • by vlueboy (1799360)

          I forget my monthly check once in a while, so I can confirm this.
          Yahoo Mail has a 4-month wipe countdown, but you need to pay for POP3 access if you want to slurp the mail.

    • Re:Simple... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:51AM (#34736884) Journal

      Although I agree that users should have backups in place (and, as I mentioned in another post, any suggestions for a simple bit of cross-platform software that archives into an open format would be helpful), simply saying "It's free, you have no right to bitch" is disingenuous. Yes, in an ideal world one should have a signed contract laying out their precise rights, and yes, any normal free email account has an EULA that basically says "We are not responsible if our service breaks into your house, tars and feathers your spouse, and paints your dog blue", but that does not instantly absolve them from all responsibility in the eyes of their users, wherever they may stand legally. To a reasonable person, there is an expectation of reliability even in a free email service - even if a class action suit wouldn't have a leg to stand on, there's still the (often equally powerful) court of public opinion to deal with.

      • For Firefox and SeaMonkey, there is MozBackup to backup your local profiles, including the mailbox. While available only for Windows, it is Open Source and should therefore not easily disappear.

        Of course, relying on MozBackup requires you to generally store your mails at home, not on the server.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        Furthermore, they're running the service for a reason. If there was no incentive for them to run Hotmail, they'd have axed it a long time ago. Thus, legal obligations aside, if they want their product to help them, they need to offer a good service. If they don't, people will just move to another similar service and they'll have lost their customer base. Worse, it'll probably taint all of their other offerings. What if they have the same policies/stupidity with, say, Office Live?

  • by indytx (825419) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:36AM (#34736816)
    Who's going to trust Microsoft to have a part of it? Am I the only person, after the whole Danger debacle and now this, who would never consider trusting Microsoft with any important data? This kind of thing looks really, really bad.
    • We keep hearing about how MS wants to move to cloud-based services, with things like office. If they're not taking this extremely seriously and providing five star response, it shoots their cloud image in the foot.

      But then, they seem to like shooting themselves in the foot. (you'd think by now they'd have ran out of toes?) I certainly wouldn't trust them to keep my documents safe if they demonstrate they can't even handle my email.

  • Does the author have any idea what that term really means?

    • by msauve (701917) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:46AM (#34736870)
      Of course. sans = Storage Area NetworkS, which is obviously where the author thinks the problem lies.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:15AM (#34737004)

      Do you? The author used it in a perfectly acceptable manner. "Sans" means "without". So "Users can still log in sans issue." can be read as "Users can still log in without issue." That describes the situation perfectly. Users can log in just fine, but they can't view their messages.

      I appreciate it when people criticize the authors or submitters for their stupidity or ignorance, but that's just not the case here. You are the one who is in the wrong, and we should criticize you.

      • That describes the situation perfectly.

        I think you're ignoring an idiomatic detail about the word 'sans'.

        In all the usages I can think of, 'sans' refers to something that's a proper subset of something else. For example, "My cable television contract has all the channels sans HBO."

        In the original post, it's not clear of what set "issue" is a member. That's jarring to the reader.

        Therefore I think the way it was used was at least unpleasant and possibly also unidiomatic. I'd say that made it a bad word cho

        • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:43PM (#34740622)

          That describes the situation perfectly.

          I think you're ignoring an idiomatic detail about the word 'sans'.

          In all the usages I can think of, 'sans' refers to something that's a proper subset of something else. For example, "My cable television contract has all the channels sans HBO."

          In the original post, it's not clear of what set "issue" is a member. That's jarring to the reader.

          Therefore I think the way it was used was at least unpleasant and possibly also unidiomatic. I'd say that made it a bad word choice.

          I'd say your explanation is sans basis in fact. The term sans means "without," not "except for." This is true in both the original French and in English. While these are similar, they are not identical.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "sans issue" means "no exit" in French. So it is briefly confusing to anyone who understands a bit of French to use it to mean "without any problems". The trouble is that you don't know how much French the writer is trying to use, and might even think they are trying to say "Users can log in but not log out again". (And the use of issue to mean problem, though widely accepted, is still non-compliant with most dictionaries; it more properly means an outcome or consequence, or a matter for discussion - witho

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:46AM (#34736872)

    You gets what you pays for. You're paying nothing except your privacy - which corporations demonstrably don't value highly - in exchange for a webmail service. One which explicitly declares in its terms and conditions that you have no expectation of data integrity.

    And if you only ever use the web interface, there isn't even any chance that you've mirrored your mail to your local computer. Webmail relieves you of the responsibility of installing a mail client, backing up your data, etc.

    Now everything is going "cloud", I can see a gap in the market for "family cloud" appliances - plonk them on your home network, trust a few similar units on the networks of family members, and get the benefits of redundant backups, mail service, etc, exchanging the cost of your privacy for a few hundred dollars.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      > You gets what you pays for.

      No you don't. proof: people buy Microsoft products.

    • People's privacy only has low value because people forget to cherish it: it's become available in infinite supply, so its value is approaching zero.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Now everything is going "cloud", I can see a gap in the market for "family cloud" appliances - plonk them on your home network, trust a few similar units on the networks of family members, and get the benefits of redundant backups, mail service, etc, exchanging the cost of your privacy for a few hundred dollars.

      And most likely a violation of your internet providers TOS for running those evil 'servers' on a home account.

    • I can see a gap in the market for "family cloud" appliances - plonk them on your home network, trust a few similar units on the networks of family members, and get the benefits of redundant backups, mail service, etc, exchanging the cost of your privacy for a few hundred dollars.

      Good idea, but how are you going to implement it in such a way that the consumers don't actually need to do anything?

    • by El Cubano (631386)

      Now everything is going "cloud", I can see a gap in the market for "family cloud" appliances - plonk them on your home network, trust a few similar units on the networks of family members, and get the benefits of redundant backups, mail service, etc, exchanging the cost of your privacy for a few hundred dollars.

      That is exactly what Eben Moglen discussed during his presentation at DebConf10. Info on the presentation [debconf.org] (including links to video) is available. Also check out Joey Hess' commentary [kitenet.net] on the pre

  • To The Cloud! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by baptiste (256004) <mike&baptiste,us> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:02AM (#34736930) Homepage Journal
    This makes their new marketing slogan for Windows Live all the more humorous! 'To The Cloud' indeed! More like POOF!
  • by allfreightoncanals (1969106) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:24AM (#34737034)
    You can easily backup your emails by setting up an account with another webmail provider and set that to download and save email from your original account. Of course that means you are giving two companies access to your information, but since you used web mail to begin with, I'm assuming that you are ok with that.
  • And that boys and girls is why cloud computing sucks.

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      And that boys and girls is why cloud computing sucks.

      Hotmail doesn't use cloud computing though.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:40AM (#34737132) Homepage Journal
    Just because the mails aren't visible doesn't NECESSARILY mean they are deleted. It could just be a replication issue amongst certain servers(you see this happen on slashdot from time to time, ie a story looks like it doesn't have any comments because there was an issue updating the server you are currently using). Eventual consistency is a powerful tool, but things like this can easily happen if a problem occurs.
  • Yahoo email. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:50AM (#34737188)

    About two years ago Yahoo changed some back end stuff to rid of the country based email system (I was .au) they had and to centralise everything. In the change many peoples accounts got wiped or they got locked out of their accounts. I got locked out of my account and couldn't remember what smart ass answer I had put in to the secret questions over a decade ago. Yahoo refuse to do anything if you can't get past the secret question and so now I have nothing to do with them.

    P.S. Secret questions are the worst "security" feature ever. Either they are far too obvious and easy for casual acquaintances and Internet detectives to break (ala Sarah Palin) or you never remember the stupid shit you put in them many years in the past.

    • Secret questions are the worst "security" feature ever.

      They are a great feature if you always make your answer nonsensical with respect to the question.
      eg. Question: What was the name of your first pet? Answer: July 23, 1994

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I got locked out of my account and couldn't remember what smart ass answer I had put in to the secret questions over a decade ago."

      User error. End of story. I use questions whose answers have meaning to me but not to others.

  • How many "nines" did Microsoft promise with their supposed reliability?

  • Get it while it's hot!

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:43AM (#34737434) Journal

    When MS acquired Hotmail, they tried to move from BSD to Windows/IIS, and failed (back then, anyway) miserably. Then they poured shitloads of commercials and bling into the UI of Hotmail. Finally, they intorduced a rather draconian policy, whereby if you didn't access your account in 30 days, you were locked out. Since I hated the commercials and the bling, I had a hiatus in Hotmail use, and got locked out. I also could NOT re-create the same account name, even if nobody was using it. Anyhow, I was locked out until that day when an exploit ("hack") was discovered, with which anyone could access anyone else's account, without supplying a password. Does anyone remember those happy days? So, I "hacked" into my own account. And yes, the account was there, with all the e-mails. Why the lock-out policy? I dunno, one of the many brainfarts generating from MS.

    I remember opening my colleague's account and calling him over, just to show him it was possible. That was the last day he ever used Hotmail.

  • Hotmail startet on Solaris/*BSD-servers and was a charm to use... In January 1998 Microsoft bought Hotmail and tried to port everything to WindowsNT... In mid-2000 they finally started switching "some" of the frontend-servers from FreeBSD/Apache to Windows2000/IIS... Maybe now they are finally starting to port the database-servers also to Windows-HastaLaVista-New-Experience-Technology, so that's why data gets lost. :-)
  • As you all know, if you don't use your account you will lose it.

    I lost mine about 4 years ago and went back recently to Hotmail and they let me in just fine, same password and everything.

    At the very least, it's better than Google keeping all your stuff forever.

  • A quick google of Hotmail data loss tales of woe shows that it is almost a yearly feature now.
  • Once it gets too hot...no more clouds.

    Works every time.

    Trusting clouds is well...trusting in vaporware.

  • by canadiangoose (606308) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <mahargjd>> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:59PM (#34738346)
    I've had a hotmail account since '94, well before Microsoft purchased them. I used it for everything. It had all sort of amazing stuff in it, letters between myself and some of my first girlfriends, things I really rather treasured. I was quite a fan of Hotmail. Even when Gmail was released, I didn't think I had much use for it. Hotmail did everything I needed.

    Until one day in '04, when I logged in after having taken a bit of a break from the online world. It was the first time I'd logged in to my Hotmail in a month, so I expected there to be quite a lot of mail. There were plenty of new messages, but all of my old email was gone!!!!

    I freaked out for a while, then read through the "terms of service" or whatever they were calling it at the time. Seems they had silently implemented a policy whereby they delete ALL of your email if you fail to log in for 30 days. Ten years worth of email GONE!!

    I suppose they were trying to provide incentives for people to log in to their Hotmail more regularly, but it all it motivated me to do was to open a Gmail account immediately.

    Sure, it was a free service with no guarantees. Perhaps I should have been making backups of my precious emails. Thing is, this was not something they did by mistake. This was a policy that they willfully implemented. They chose to punish their subscribers. I don't get it.

    Microsoft sucks.

    • You say that:

      "They chose to punish their subscribers. I don't get it. "

      And then, goes on with:

      "Microsoft sucks."

      You just get it.

  • by zmollusc (763634) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @03:34PM (#34739328)

    Why didn't Hotmail back everything up to the cloud?

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