REDMOND SOFTWARE FIRM Microsoft is adding the option of two-factor authentication across its many services.
Microsoft is a part of a growing gang of hip firms that have wised up to the importance of the two-step. Apple took it up last month and Google has had it as an option since 2010. Microsoft does use it, but not all the time. This release broadens its adoption.
Really happy to hear Microsoft is rolling out two-factor authentication: goo.gl/GDdUm Great news for users.— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) April 17, 2013
In a blog post to its Technet pages Microsoft said that it will start rolling out the feature Wednesday and will steadily offer it to the 700 million users of its various services, including Outlook.com, Skype and Xbox.
Eric Doerr, group program manager for Microsoft accounts, said that the feature is optional, and will help users to help it to prevent fraud across its systems.
"More than a year ago, we began bringing two-step verification for certain critical activities, like editing credit cards and subscriptions, or accessing files on another one of your computers through SkyDrive.com. For these scenarios, two-step verification is required 100 percent of the time for everyone, given the sensitive nature of these tasks," said Doerr.
"With this release you can choose to protect your entire account with two-step verification, regardless of what service (or device) you are using with your Microsoft account. It's your choice whether you want to enable this, but for those of you that are looking for ways to add additional security to your account, we've worked hard to make set-up really easy."
Users can elect to use two-factor authentication to secure their access in a range of ways depending on what system or type of hardware they are using.
The firm has also released an app that can be downloaded to a Windows Phone smartphone and used to receive codes for access.
"The advantage of authenticator applications is that they use advanced cryptography to generate codes to access your account without the need to be online. This is especially helpful if you're on vacation and don't want to pay high roaming fees to receive text messages or phone calls," added Doerr.
"If you don't use a Windows Phone, there are excellent authenticator apps that already exist for those platforms and are compatible with Microsoft account two-step verification."
Microsoft's two-factor authentication initiative coincidentally comes just in time, as the webcomic xkcd nailed it about its lack of online security just the other day. µ