Hotmail beefs up security with stricter password policy

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Jul 18, 2011

'My friend has been spammed' button also welcomed by experts.

Microsoft's free webmail service Hotmail has introduced some new features which should make it less likely for its users' accounts to be hacked, and which also enable users to tell the company when a friend's account has been hacked.

One of the new features is a stricter password policy that prevents users from choosing easily guessable passwords which could be cracked by brute force or via dictionary attacks. Unfortunately, it is not possible for Microsoft to prevent its users from using the same password in multiple places, but should they do so (and assuming those other places only store hashed versions of the passwords), this should make it significantly less likely for Hotmail accounts to become compromised.

Of course, there are other ways for accounts to be compromised, phishing being one of them. With this in mind, Microsoft has added an option to the Hotmail interface to report a friend's account as having been hacked.

A pretty common scam is one in which an email or social networking account is hacked into and messages are sent to the user's contacts with a story of the account owner having found themself in some sort of scrape and in dire need of money. The new button - which means Microsoft will look into the account with high priority - will be a welcome addition to help protect those who are likely to be taken in by such scams.

The button's use is not restricted to Hotmail accounts and the company will forward reports to Yahoo! and Gmail, the other two major providers of free webmail. It is unknown whether Yahoo! and Gmail will implement similar features.

More at Microsoft's Inside Windows Live blog here, with positive comments from Gary Warner here, from Sophos here and from Trend Micro here.

Posted on 18 July 2011 by Virus Bulletin

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