[SIGH] The Phish That Wasn’t

Category: Cloud , Email

Cybercrooks thrive on FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. When a massive breach of a retailer’s customer database occurs, crooks swoop in to con panicked consumers. Every tax season, when people are tearing their hair out, con artists impersonate the IRS. And when Microsoft reneges on a promise and its customers rebel, phish start flying. Huh, what? Read on for the details; all will be revealed...

Is the Microsoft OneDrive Email a Scam?

Last week, I received a peculiar email from “onedrive@microsoftemails.com” with subject: “Changes to storage limits.” The body of the email bore a legitimate-looking “OneDrive” logo at the top, but the word “Microsoft” and the Microsoft logo appeared only at the very end. The message didn’t sound right, either:

“We want to let you know about some upcoming changes to OneDrive. On July 27, 2016, the amount of storage that comes with OneDrive will change from 15 GB to 5 GB. We are also discontinuing the 15 GB camera roll bonus. You can learn more at our FAQ.”

That’s a bit too straightforward for Microsoft, or any big corporation. No “Dear Valued Customer…” No gushing, phony excitement about the “new, improved” OneDrive, even though it’s obvious the product is being degraded. No hype or spin. That just isn’t Microsoftian! And what? You're *decreasing* my online storage?

OneDrive phishy email

So, spider-sense on full alert, I looked closely at the links embedded in this email, hovering my cursor over a link to reveal its underlying URL. All of the URLs point to a domain named “microsoftemails.com.” Hmmm. A bit of Googling reveals that Microsoft sends mass emails from a domain named “microsoftemail.com” - note that there’s no “s” at the end of the legitimate domain name.

I looked up the “plural” domain name in the Whois database and discovered that microsoftemails.com is owned by ExactTarget, Inc., an email marketing consultancy. Interestingly, ExactTarget is owned by SalesForce.com, Inc., the huge cloud-based customer relationship management firm. Double hmmm. That triggered some alarms in me; I suspected some legal but dastardly marketing trick. But I became fairly confident that clicking on one of the links in the “OneDrive” email would NOT infect my PC with malware.

Much Ado About Something

I'm baffled as to why Microsoft would go to so much trouble to annoy, confuse and disappoint their customers. If you want a reliable cloud service that still offers 15GB of file storage, Google Drive is one good option. You can find other alternatives in my articles Stashing Your Stuff Online and Ten Free Cloud Backup Services.

A little more Googling discovered several online forums in which people were asking, “What is this email? Is it a phish?” One member of the Windows 10 Forums was very definite in his answer: “If you click on any of the links in that email, you will be asked to provide your username and password. If you do that, the bad guys will then have your secret information.”

Unfortunately, he couldn’t possibly have known that, nor clicked on one of those links, because none of them leads to a phishing site. Instead, the URLs in the email that contain “microsoftemails.com” re-direct to pages on Microsoft-owned servers: office.com, live.com, and (drumroll, please) microsoft.com. At that point, my suspicion changed to exasperation.

Why, Microsoft? Why did you disguise your well-known and trusted domain names behind a very phishy-looking one? Why did you engage an email marketer that hardly anyone has heard of to represent your brand? Why did you send a hasty, sketchy message that would set any cautious user’s Spidey sense a-tingling? Why did you waste my time with all of this?

The answer dates to November 2, 2015, the day Microsoft broke its “unlimited cloud storage” promise to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Due to a “tiny minority” of consumers who “abused” the offer by using up to 75 Terabytes of space, the company decided to limit Office 365 Home, Personal, and University accounts to “only” one Terabyte.

You can guess how well that was received. Microsoft logged over 72,000 complaints from Office 365 subscribers who really, really don’t like “bait and switch” marketing. Shifting to damage control, Microsoft apologized in December, 2015, and has been trying to mollify the angry customers ever since.

Microsoft’s efforts have been hasty, amateurish, and confusing for all concerned. Fortunately, there is a straightforward explanation of the changes in storage limits for OneDrive and Office 365 users. You’ll find it here, on the MS Office Support site, without going through the superfluous confusing microsoftemails.com maze.

So yes, Microsoft's OneDrive will change your cloud storage allotment from 15 GB to 5 GB. Will you lose some of your files if you are over the 5GB quota? If so, when? The short answers are "maybe" and "not very soon." The long answers to those questions are in the bulletin mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[SIGH] The Phish That Wasn’t"

Posted by:

Nezzar
26 Apr 2016

Dear Bob,
Thanks much for the info. I fell for this "Microsoft" email completely. In the future, I will look closer at the URL, and I am just grateful that clicking on the website listed did not infect my computer with anything. It just never occurred to me that an official-looking email supposedly from Microsoft would come from elsewhere. I will be more cautious from now on.


Posted by:

Judith Wagner
26 Apr 2016

The message I received:

" As you know, the amount of storage that comes with most OneDrive accounts is changing from 15 GB to 5 GB. You previously confirmed your desire to keep your 15 GB of free storage (and the 15 GB camera roll bonus if you have it).* As a result, your account will not be affected by these changes.
We want to apologize for any inconvenience these changes may have caused you. We listened to our users’ feedback, and we are committed to making OneDrive the best option for people who want to be productive and do more."


Posted by:

NB
26 Apr 2016

Clearly Microsoft did not manage this well at all. That said, the available offers from OneDrive include:

* 5 GB free online storage
* 50 GB for $1.99 per month
* 1 TB included if you subscribe to Office 365 for $6.99 per month.

Those all look like reasonable choices.


Posted by:

Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries
26 Apr 2016

This was the second stupid email I received from Microsoft in a matter of weeks.

The one that came before it was about Health Vault. Here's a link to the conversation about that:

https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/a2a0d38c-df46-4644-9dfc-dbc73ee1f802/how-does-one-report-potential-spam-or-phishing?forum=HealthVaultCustomer

Note how long it took me to get an answer. (And, of course, I sign in with a Microsoft account, so my receipt of the email was a mistake anyway.)

You think Microsoft would learn, but Microsoft has always marched to the beat of its own drum.


Posted by:

Jon
26 Apr 2016

The 75TB was the bit that got me.

Just think of what was in 75TB of data.

My mind is boggling!

On the other hand, who in their right mind would pay $1.99 a month for 50GB storage? External drives are cheap as chips these days. $39.80 a month for 1TB works out around the same as buying an external 1TB drive and in two to three months maximum would pay for a back-up as well.

Do they still teach Maths in school?

Thanks again for confirming my suspicions about the coming Idiocracy....


Posted by:

Terry Hollett
26 Apr 2016

"Due to a “tiny minority” of consumers who “abused” the offer by using up to 75 Terabytes of space"

These customers did nothing wrong. Microsoft is the abuser here. Probably was just a case of Bait and Switch. These companies like Microsoft are so massive that even if fined millions it's just a slap on the wrist.


Posted by:

Phil
26 Apr 2016

Hi Bob,
Yep, I spotted this "phishing" message. But since I don't use One Drive for major storage I was unconcerned and ignored it. Occasionally I do use it for making a folder of my photos available to friends and family.....thereby bypassing the usual limits imposed on E-mail attachments. They can see the thumbnails and download what they want to see or keep without suffering the usual degradation of image quality when attached to E-mails. But it has always been my understanding that this stored data will automatically be removed in about two months. Is that incorrect?
A very interesting post, Bob, as usual.


Posted by:

RustBelt
26 Apr 2016

__Ubuntu__

Sick and tired of MicroSoft's tinkering.


Posted by:

Paul Memoli
26 Apr 2016

Simply confirms my decision to have nothing to do with "cloud services"....almost as bad as vaporware!


Posted by:

BobD
26 Apr 2016

After Microsoft bricked my computer with their "upgrade" to Windows 10, they have forfeited all good will from me. They are idiots and amateurs. I suppose cloudiness is nice, what with mobiles and desktops, but where there be clouds, there be lightning.


Posted by:

Jay R
27 Apr 2016

I really hope that I can post a link here-

https://youtu.be/w1-DHepnVLs

And as you can, see this one of those tiny ones.


Posted by:

Jay R
27 Apr 2016

Uh, I somehow lost the is not between "this" and "one". Sorry. Maybe I'm not the posting type.


Posted by:

Wm
27 Apr 2016

The whole world thrives on FUD


Posted by:

Jay
27 Apr 2016

My wife almost lost her job because Microsoft bricked the laptop that she uses at work with a forced install of Windows 10. She knows how to use her normal work programs, but had no idea about Microsoft's evil plans regarding Windows 10, as she is not a technician. Not only is her laptop now ruined, but the installation used up all of her, very expensive, data allocation for the month. Her boss has now taken the laptop and refuses to let her use it again. If she can not work, then she may still lose her job. Will mr. Gates provide her with employment?


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