I have been noticing a rash number of people, using Microsoft’s Live Hotmail service, where their accounts are being compromised. What I mean by that, is that their account has been hijacked (accessed) and is automatically generating (sending) spam email to everyone in the account owners address book.
For example, several parties that I know personally (this week) had their account hijacked, and unbeknownst to them, everyone in their address book started receiving emails that contained nothing but a link to an unknown web site. Many of these sites, if clicked on, are not reputable sites and may contain a malicious payload that could infect your computer.
If you have a Hotmail Account and you are a victim of the tactic, as I have described, there are several things you can do:
Immediately change your password in the Hotmail options. The “options” section is very tricky to find due it is partially camouflaged with an advertisement. On the top right side of your Hotmail account you will see the link to “options” and most likely a vertical advertisement banner. To close the advertisement banner, go to the bottom of the advertisement and you will see an “X” to close it. Once that has been accomplished, you will see a small arrow next to the options link. Click on the arrow and you will see “more options”. Click on “more options”. You should now see numerous account options, with one being the option to change your password. While changing the password, I suggest you place a check next to the option where Hotmail will prompt you to change your password every 72 days. Make sure you use a strong password. What is a strong password? Go to this site [ HERE ] , type in the password you intend to use and the site will tell you how long (in terms of time) it would take someone, with a computer, to crack the password. The longer the time, the better. For example I tested a password that would take 11 years to crack.
Also, under your Hotmail options, visually check the “automated vacation replies” and “personal email signatures”. If you see anything suspicious, delete the suspicious content and click “save”.
If your account is of big importance, and you have been hijacked, I suggest deleting your Hotmail account. Prior to doing that I would move (export) my address book to a file (.csv) that you will save to your computer. The link to “export” your address book is under the Hotmail “options”. Next, go to wherever you plan to set up your new email account. Once it is setup, import your contacts from the file you saved on your computer, into the new account. After you are satisfied, go back to your Hotmail account, delete all of your contacts, then delete your Hotmail account in its’ entirety.
To close a Hotmail account, go into options, click on “Account details (password, aliases, time zone)”, and at the bottom of the page you will see “Close Your Account” under “Other Options”.
If you want to know if I use Hotmail? I do use it, but only as a low priority email service. I am very concerned by the number of people I am seeing on their support site where accounts are being hijacked left and right. Folks, the solution to this is one important thing, especially if you are using a web mail service. Change those passwords, change them often and make them difficult.