Feeds

Size does matter: Outlook.com punters want meatier passwords

16 characters not enough, say security experts

Boost IT visibility and business value

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.