Feeds

Size does matter: Outlook.com punters want meatier passwords

16 characters not enough, say security experts

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft has come in for a bit of stick in security circles for only allowing a 16-character password for sign-ups to Outlook.com, Redmond's newly launched Gmail rival.

The service – which has already attracted more than a million sign-ups – has a maximum password length of 16 characters, the same as Hotmail.com and Windows Live ID. Yahoo!, by comparison, allows up to 32 characters (although its minimum of six is too short, even for a complex password).

Experiments by Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, suggest that Google supports password lengths well over 32 characters. "When registering an account with Gmail, I was unable to hit a limit on password length," Cluley explains in a blog post. "However, as I tried to log into an account I had created with a ridiculously long password I was told I could only enter 200 characters."

The length of a password is less important than its strength, which depends on whether the login credential uses a mix of letter, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters (good) or words that might be found in a dictionary (terrible). But length is a factor is password strength and there's no good reason for Outlook.com to be more restrictive on this point than either Gmail or Yahoo!, its main competitors.

"It's a shame to see the new Outlook.com miss an opportunity to encourage the use of longer passwords," Cluley added. "Anything which encourages users to choose hard-to-crack, hard-to-guess, unique passwords is good in my book."

A video from Sophos explaining how to create passwords that are hard to crack but easy to remember, as well as explaining the importance of not using the same password on multiple websites, can be found here.

The introduction of Outlook.com this week also saw jokers beating Microsoft's chief exec to the punch by grabbing steveballmer@outlook.com. Another address that ought to be reserved – donotreply@outlook.com – also fell into the hands of pranksters.

Less amusingly there's little doubt that phishers and spammers have also acquired Outlook.com addresses in preparation for the launch of various scams. Unlike the password length issue, this sort of landgrab is virtually impossible to prevent and the best that we can hope for is rapid detection of account abuse combined with a well-oiled take-down machine.

Other gripes about the new webmail service have included poor integration with Opera and the usability of its audio CAPTCHA for password recovery, both of which sound like the sort of teething troubles that Microsoft will be able to iron out fairly quickly. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.