Microsoft is investigating ways to beef up security without having to resort to a 2-step method.
A spokesperson from Microsoft recently told Mashable that the company is working to offer better security for users of the web-mail service formerly known as Hotmail, Outlook.com, than what Google provides for its Gmail clients. But when asked what those security measures would be, the spokesperson merely said Outlook would require "strong passwords" and possibly even single-use codes.
For the uninitiated, Google requires the typical username and password login credentials. But users can also activate the two-step security method which includes a second numeric code that's sent directly to the user's associated smartphone. This code changes every thirty days, and new ones are provided when the user logs onto Google's services from a different browser. Sometimes the user is even required to set up a permission first, and is given a long string of numbers and letters to use as the initial password.
"2-step verification helps protect a user's account from unauthorized access should someone manage to obtain their password," Google states. "Even if a password is cracked, guessed, or otherwise stolen, an attacker can't sign in without access to the user's verification codes, which only the user can obtain via their own mobile phone."
Microsoft's proposed single-use code would also be sent to the user's associated smartphone via texting, but these are used in replace of the user's password. This helps prevent hackers from using keyloggers to gain a user's password when logging in at a public access. However Microsoft hasn't settled on this method, as Outlook is still in preview mode and the company itself is in research & development mode.
According to the rep, Microsoft has in fact looked into using the 2-step security method, but chose not to take that route because only a small number of Gmail users actually use it (and it's a pain, to be honest, but effective). Instead, Microsoft wants "to find a strong solution that everyone can use, versus just the 1-percent of users that figure out how to navigate a bunch of additional setup options."
Recently Wired reporter Mat Honan saw his phone, tablet and laptop taken over and wiped by hackers because he had not activated two-factor authentication on his Gmail account. While not quite as damaging, my personal Google account was also hacked because two-step authentication was not activated. Hackers used the stored credit card number to purchase Google Voice minutes and make international calls. Google quickly refunded the money and suggested that two-step authentication be used in the future. Aye aye, cap'n.
On July 31, Microsoft tore down the long-standing Hotmail service and launched a new, built-from-the-ground-up web mail service called Outlook.com. Users trying to access Hotmail using the old URL are directed to the new Modern-themed Outlook web client. The overall functionality is seemingly the same -- the Outlook version just looks more streamlined, more hip. Office connectivity means users can open Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents from an email. Skype video chats can even be launched from the inbox.
"We think the time is right to re-imagine personal email, from the datacenter to the user experience," Chris Jones, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Live, said in a press release at launch.