Your Microsoft account is the gateway to the company’s many online services such as email and online storage.
Recently, Microsoft rolled out a few enhancements to help make monitoring and protecting MS accounts easier. Here’s what you should know.
Many Microsoft services; one sign-in name
If you use just about any product or service from Microsoft, you have a Microsoft account. A Microsoft account unlocks various cloud-based services such as SkyDrive (soon to be renamed OneDrive), Outlook.com, Office 365, Internet Explorer synching, and Xbox Live. The single set of credentials makes using Microsoft services more convenient, but it also means users are at greater risk of having their accounts compromised.
Aware of this potential peril, Microsoft recently introduced a handful of new features that help users keep their MS accounts secure. Last year, Microsoft (site) took its first step toward tighter security by introducing an optional two-step verification. That’s a significant change. In fact, those who’ve taken advantage of two-step verification will find the subsequent security enhancements to MS accounts generally unnecessary. That said, it never hurts to have more security — especially if you haven’t opted for two-step verification.
The most recent security improvements include:
- A way to view all recent MS account sign-in activity
- An option to create a secure recovery code, so you can access your account if you lose your password
- Greater control over how security notifications are delivered.
Recent activity is an especially valuable tool; it lets you monitor your account for unauthorized sign-in attempts. More importantly, you can also check whether those attempts were successful. Recent activity will now show up as a link in the left pane (see Figure 1) in the MS account summary page. It will display a history of sign-in attempts, including the time and origin of the sign-in try plus the result of each attempt (see Figure 2).
If, for example, there was an unsuccessful sign-in attempt from a foreign country in the dead of night while you were asleep, you have cause for concern. The activity summary includes buttons to let Microsoft know that a given sign-in attempt wasn’t you. (Microsoft probably won’t solve your particular case, but it could help the company provide better security in the future.)