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Microsoft rolls out two-factor authentication to protect user accounts against hack attacks

ms2After a series of hack attacks, companies like Apple, Facebook and Google have already rolled out two-factor authentication. Microsoft has followed suit with its own two-way authentication across its products and services.

Services that will be affected by the company’s new update are Windows, SkyDrive, Microsoft Office Suite, Outlook.com, XBOX, Windows Phone and Outlook.com. The new rollout will reduce the possibility of a hacker being able to gain unauthorized access to any Microsoft account. The company will guide users through the two-step auth process when they try to access any of their Microsoft accounts. The process involves typing in a hard-to-crack password followed a randomly generated 4-digit security code sent to the user’s cell phone.

In the event a hacker obtains the password, he or she still needs to physically acquire the user’s phone to be able to get the security code and break into an account. This makes it much harder for malicious users to hack into accounts.

The process however does not work with linked accounts and will require users to unlink all their accounts before enabling two-step authentication. The SMS concept is not new to Microsoft that already has some measure of protection in place for Outlook.com users. The mail service uses a single use password concept where a number code is sent to the user’s phone via SMS. The only step missing is the password stage, where the user keys in his or her password. This system was developed to help users whose passwords were lifted to login to their accounts. Microsoft has extended this feature to implement two-step authentication like its peers decreasing the likelihood of password hacking.

Now that major companies like Microsoft, Apple and Facebook have embraced this new authentication method, users need to brace themselves against cell phone theft and viruses that try to retrieve sensitive information from phone messages that seem likely in the future.

FROM: CNET