Bonum Certa Men Certa

Sainsbury’s Epic Downtime Seems to be Microsoft's Fault and Might Even Constitute a Data Breach (Legal Liability)

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Mar 18, 2024,
updated Mar 18, 2024

Sainsburys logo

NEED we explore Windows Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) stories for Sainsbury’s, one of Britain's largest groceries (and far beyond) chains? Yes. Because it keeps happening and Sainsbury’s isn't learning a much-needed lesson. Sainsbury’s must dump Microsoft or risk reputation issues, if not legal issues too. Sainsbury’s has a lot of data about things that I bought almost as far back as the 1990s. It has similar data about millions of Brits. They have a considerable stake in what's happening.

Today we deal with this latest incident which shut down the online store of Sainsbury’s over the weekend. What exactly happened? It's not clear, but later I'll show the face-saving nonsense that the CEO sent everybody in their database, myself included..

A friend told me there will probably more information later, but I doubt it. They want people to forget and "move on" as soon as possible.

Looking at Sainsbury’s addresses like these, we find: "To access the site, please log in using your Sainsbury's or Sainsbury's Bank email address. Unable to access your account? Please click here. 2013 Microsoft."

Yes, notice Microsoft at bottom:

To access the site, please log in using your Sainsbury's or Sainsbury's Bank email address. Unable to access your account? Please click here. 2013 Microsoft.

Yes, in 2024 it says "2013 Microsoft." Sounds reassuring, right.

Digging a little deeper, we find pages like these about the love-fest of Microsoft and Sainsbury's. "No info about what is hosting their web app," an associate said, but it's revealing that they're deeply connected to Microsoft and maybe outsource a lot of their operations as well. They use Microsoft Teams and have in essence outsourced their communications to Microsoft/NSA/USA. Stay classy. They clearly don't grasp security and sovereignty. Look who's running the company.

However, in relation to the above (latest) incident, it should be noted that sainsburystoyou is another site and I used to use that ages ago, as far back as 20+ years ago (first time was around 2003 because they had sent out vouchers for early adoption). It was always very Microsoft-centric, but Microsoft is hiding behind proxies (Tata is Microsoft) and buzzwords like "modernization" (that's how they frame outsourcing to another country). In the "partnerplatform" subsite, the ai_session is rather telling. "This cookie name is associated with the Microsoft Application Insights software, which c ollects statistical usage and telemetry information for apps built on the Azure cloud platform. This is a unique anonymous session identifier cookie."

Conclusion: almost certainly Windows all over the place, hence Microsoft TCO. Other large chains such as Asda and Tesco are the same, but that is perhaps a subject for another day. The UK has a Microsoft infestation crisis. It weakens us as a nation and it impedes technical literacy.

So no, it is now Russia's fault, it's not some networking issues, it seems to be Microsoft slopware breaking down yet again. Yet again.

Wait, again?

Yes, because it happened before and it was reported as a Windows data breach. As associate says that Sainsbury's is at fault here because it chose Microsoft. Being cynical, the associate said it obviously can't be the fault of Microsoft for decades of shoddy design and workmanship, nor the fault of the Microsofters shoehorning Microsoft products into production environments.

Let's just always blame "Russia" and "Putin". Just before a long weekend, preferably. So that journalists will not be around, hence nobody will fact-check the claims from Microsoft.

So has Sainsbury's blamed "Russia" yet? Has Microsoft? "They can't find any other topics to criticise Russia over," the associate joked, in reference to all sorts of things which distract from war crimes...

The downtime wasn't ignored or overlooked; it's in the media right now and it was in the media over the weekend, as early as Saturday (my wife had seen reports about this in BBC; of course they didn't investigate the actual cause and just relayed corporate statements instead; they simply believe whatever the nontechnical 'suits' at Sainsbury's tell them).

Yesterday (Sunday) Simon Roberts (CEO, Sainsbury's) mass-mailed everybody, including me:

Dear Roy,

I’m writing to update you on the technical issue that has affected our Groceries Online deliveries and some services in our stores this weekend.

Firstly, I want to apologise to you and every customer that has been affected by the issue and to thank you for your patience and for bearing with us. I really understand how important it is for everyone to be able to shop with us conveniently and easily, whenever and however you want to, and I am sorry if you have not received your usual service from Sainsbury’s this weekend.

I am pleased to confirm that all the affected systems are now back online. Our stores continue to be open as usual and in-store payment services, including contactless, are fully operational.

Our online ordering system is still working as normal and any customers whose Groceries Online order was not delivered can place a new order now for a delivery any time from tomorrow. We will automatically add a voucher to your online wallet in the next few days to apologise for the inconvenience.

Our contact centre teams are working very hard to do everything they can to help customers who have been affected by the issue and need further assistance. Thank you for bearing with us while we work to answer any specific questions you may have as soon as possible.

I would also like to thank all our colleagues who have worked so hard to resolve this issue and support our customers. I’m proud of the way all our team have stepped up to manage the unexpected challenges that we know so many of our customers have experienced this weekend.

On behalf of everyone here at Sainsbury’s, thank you for your patience and understanding and, as always, thank you for choosing to shop with us.

Notice how, in so many paragraphs, he did nothing to assure customers there was no data breach. Why not add such an important, even critical, clarification? They got cracked perhaps? Spinning this as mere "downtime"? Such a communication strategy would not be unprecedented.

Let's dive a little deeper. What are the known facts? We know Sainsbury’s got cracked in 2021; it was Kronos malware, but "notice the omission of Windows in Wikipedia," an associate said, "though it is Windows malware."

This new report suggests Windows was involved, but it is still rather vague: "due to an error with an overnight software update." That was days after Patch Tuesday. This one calls it "major tech failure".

Not a Microsoft failure? Did you check? Or did you issue a generic statement, parroting Sainsbury’s/Microsoft? Well, "tech" does not just fail. There are causes and there are brands behind different "tech".

This year there is "no technical information to speak of," quoting the associate, "but, again, Windows malware is not unprecedented" a rival (Tesco) "was also hit."

So, to paraphrase, what legal obligations are on companies to notify of breaches and ransomware? I've sent Sainsbury’s an E-mail to ask if there was a data breach.

"They moved to Akamai the other day," our associate notes, "probably as the result of the trouble, but are under the commercial load balancers, hiding the real service."

Do note that Microsoft uses Sainsbury's as a case study without outright saying that it is afflicted with Windows and it is clear that they run 'Netskop' too [1, 2, 3].

Albeit only circumstantial, something used to be here and the smoking gun is here. "I did not keep the reference," the associate noted, "but one of Microsoft "STEM advocates" has two degrees, neither of which are STEM."

If there was a data breach at Sainsbury’s, then customers must know. Was there ransomware too? That would make things even worse. Customers can be blackmailed next, without even knowing who's to blame.

I am going to phone them to ask about my account when they open the lines in a few minutes and I suggest others who are Sainsbury’s customers do the same. Here is the number (below); they really go out of their way to make it hard to find routes to an actual person. I had to click about 10 times and move between several pages. It's like "dark patterns" to discourage any real help, leaving customers struggling to help themselves.

Sainsbury’s phone line

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