Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hotmail Security to Protect and Recover Your Account

Time and time again I see reports from Hotmail users who have lost control of their e-mail account.  As explained by Walter Harp, Director of Product Management, Windows Live, in Helping people protect their Hotmail accounts:
"In the last two years, consumer webmail and social networking services across the web have experienced an increase in the incidence of hijacking, which occurs when someone illegally gains access to another person’s account – email, social profile - and then uses that account for malicious activity. In a typical scenario, hackers will hijack large numbers of accounts and then use those accounts to send spam or social invites to the victims’ friends or others on the victims’ contact lists."  
To begin the process of recovery, hackers were purged from legitimate accounts that were identified as compromised.  The next part of the process are new security features available in Hotmail.  Now if you forget your password or your account is compromised, your Hotmail account can be recovered.  However, it is up to each of us to add the information to strengthen our account, whether by adding a secret question, alternate email, mobile number, or the newly added “Trusted PC” to your account.

How to verify your Hotmail Credentials

The options below for verifying your Hotmail credentials are accessible by clicking on your account name when logged on to Hotmail.  Select "Account", provide your account password in the requested field.  The options are located in the section on "Password reset information".

1) Designate an alternate e-mail address.  Be careful when entering the alternate e-mail address as it will need to be confirmed.

2) Add your mobile phone number and receive a text message with a secret code via SMS that can be used to reset your password and reclaim your account.

 3)  Create a secret answer:

Security Recommendation
Although providing a "secret answer" is commonly used as a means of recovering accounts, caution needs to be exercised.  Using easily determined information as your secret answer, is not advised.  Instead, for sites that still use such common personal information, use consistent false information that you will remember.

4)  Set up a "Trusted PC" -- With a trusted PC added, this becomes the only computer that can be used to recover or change your password from somewhere else. 

Note:  To add a trusted PC to your account, you need to have Windows Live Essentials installed.

If your Hotmail account is not accessible, start at Account Compromise - Unauthorized Account Access.  If assistance is still needed, a dedicated support path is available from Microsoft at

Additional security features in Hotmail include the following:

Trusted senders

One feature I am particularly looking forward to is the "Trusted Sender". This feature visually identifies legitimate mail from about 100 senders, mostly financial institutions like banks, that are commonly spoofed by identity thieves.

Account security information

The new Hotmail encourages you to increase the security of your account by adding security information that you can privately associate with your Hotmail account. For example, you can use your cell phone or other items as proof of account ownership. Then, should a problem arise with your account, you can be sent an account recapture code via an SMS message or enable regaining account access.

Single-use codes

For times when you will be using a public computer (i.e., at an internet cafe, airport, coffee shop), All it takes is clicking "request a code", and a one-time use authentication code will be sent to a private proof point (mobile phone or alternate e-mail address). By using a single-use code on a public computer instead of your password, you avoid the chances of it being stolen by key-loggers.

Full-session SSL

Hotmail currently supports SSL encryption at Wi-Fi locations but will be adding full SSL encryption later this fall.

Update: Hotmail Now Includes Full-Session HTTPS Encryption

Additional Topics on Managing Hotmail


Clubhouse Tags: Clubhouse, Windows Live, Hotmail, Security, Microsoft, Windows, How To, Information,

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