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Microsoft touts Hotmail security adds; users complain of account hacks

May 19, 2010 04:14 PM ET

Hotmail will also include a new feature tagged "Trusted Sender," which visually identifies legitimate mail from about 100 senders, mostly financial institutions like banks, that are commonly spoofed by identity thieves.

When asked to compare the new Hotmail security features with rivals such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, Harp declined to go toe-to-toe with the competition. "The race isn't so much with the other [Web e-mail] services, but with the miscreants," he said.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, disputed Harp's claim that rivals weren't at the root of Hotmail's changes. "Without the competition from Google['s Gmail], Microsoft would have much less incentive to improve Hotmail," said Rosoff.

But Harp did tout the fact that Hotmail has all of Microsoft behind it, including the company's security team. "We bring all of Microsoft's know-how, not just the Hotmail's team, to the table," said Harp.

As an example, Microsoft will offer the Internet Explorer 8 (IE) "SmartScreen Filter" technology on its Windows Live properties. SmartScreen Filter is a combination anti-phishing and malware blocking tool in IE8 that warns users when they try to reach a potentially-dangerous URL.

Hotmail users running rival browsers, including Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Opera Software's Opera, will receive that same protection later this year in a follow-on update to the June launch of Wave 4, said Harp. Other parts of Windows Live, including Messenger, Microsoft's instant messaging client, will have it immediately next month.

But some users wished Microsoft had stepped up its Hotmail security efforts earlier.

Although Microsoft today denied that there has been a recent uptick of Hotmail account hijackings, numerous users of the service have claimed that their inboxes have been hacked, and that their contacts have been purged.

Several users who used Twitter today to report that their Hotmail accounts had been hacked also wanted better security now.

"[Microsoft] to give Hotmail a make-over [is] too little too late if the number of times my account has been hacked is an indicator," tweeted James Milligan today, referring to a Wednesday story on The Daily Telegraph's Web site about Hotmail improvements.

"Hotmail adding a bunch of new features ... how about focusing on security from hackers? And more help for hacked accts?" tweeted Bill Robb Tuesday.

Robert McMillan of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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