WEBMAIL SERVICE Hotmail is introducing a raft of measures that it hopes will curb the hijacking of user accounts.
Operated by Microsoft, Hotmail accounts are still a target for scammers and spammers with the firm fighting hard to keep the service ahead of Yahoo and in particular Google. After a summer of discontent with a botched upgrade, the Vole is now trying to make it harder for its users to fall for various scams.
Measures include texting a single use password to mobile phones so users on public terminals that might be compromised with keyloggers do not give away their password. Though that sounds like a pretty decent and expensive idea from the folks in Redmond, other features do cause a certain arching of the eyebrows.
Apparently Microsoft will be monitoring the "reputation" of the IP address used to login to Hotmail. Depending on its reputation, Hotmail will vary the number of tries a user has at entering a password. The idea of a firm monitoring the reputation of an IP address can be particularly concerning as that sort of data can lead to Internet 'islands' if other firms deem it necessary to segregate users by tapping into Microsoft's data.
A similar system has been in place for many years with real time blacklist (RBL), though these are typically used to discern whether an email server is legitimate or simply a compromised machine, part of a botnet. Although RBLs are a handy resource, they have been known to frequently produce false positives and headaches for administrators who find their IP ranges incorrectly blacklisted.
Microsoft is also showing off two new security features for Hotmail including a "Trusted PC" initiative whereby the user can nominate a computer that can initiate a password reset. The other is to fork over your mobile phone number to Microsoft so it can send you a text message with a code that can be used to reset your Hotmail account.
We're not sure whether users will feel more secure knowing that Microsoft has their phone number but having a quick browse of Microsoft's Windows Live ID forum, it doesn't take long to see that the Vole is being inundated with requests from users who are having problems with recovering compromised accounts.
Microsoft will be hoping that its latest round of updates to Hotmail doesn't end up causing the same farce as those over the summer. One also hopes that as Microsoft makes it harder for users to have their accounts nabbed, the volume of spam being sent from Hotmail will take a dive. µ
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