Microsoft account holders will soon be able to turn on two-step authentication in order to make their accounts more secure against hackers and online criminals.
The feature — similar to those already made available for Google, Facebook, Yahoo and, most recently, WordPress.com account holders — makes signing in more secure by requiring the user to enter a single-use numeric passcode texted to his phone, in addition to his traditional password.
"It's your choice whether you want to enable this, but for those of you that are looking for ways to add additional security to your account, we've worked hard to make set-up really easy," Microsoft group program manager Eric Doerr wrote on the company's official TechNet blog.
With two-step authentication turned on, Microsoft account holders will be protected from logins on unauthorized computers. A criminal trying to log in from Russia won't be able to get in without the code texted to your phone in Kansas City.
Microsoft accounts can be used to sign in to services across the Microsoft universe, such as Xbox Live, Hotmail, Outlook.com, Skype and SkyDrive.
In case the user isn't able to receive text messages, Windows Phone has an app, similar to Google Authenticator, that will generate a one-time passcode.
There's no Microsoft authentication app for iOS or Android, but because there's a standardized system for this type of authentication, codes generated by Google's Authenticator app will work for Microsoft logins.
The added security layer is an optional feature that users will need to turn on if they wish to use it.
Trusted machines, such as your home computer, will be allowed to bypass the two-factor test after the initial login, but only when using Internet Explorer. Users can use application-specific passwords for software that doesn't support the added verification measure.
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