by Tony Gamble
We’ve all heard the mantra from our tech gurus and advisors: change your passwords regularly. I’ve even been known to preach the gospel of good password management to all who will listen. But when was the last time you updated your password recovery options?
A good friend of mine recently found herself locked out of her Hotmail (now Outlook) account. No problem, just click the link “Can’t access your account?” below the login form. The friendly Microsoft wizard popped up with a few questions to guide her back to email bliss. The issue was that her mind was blanking on the password, so after a bit of CAPTCHA magic the wizard moved on to the options she had set for password recovery. This is where she hit a brick wall. The secondary email address she had provided was one of those ISP-provided email accounts from several years before. She had since switched ISPs (a few times), so there was no chance she was going to get her security code that way. The second option she’d set was her cell phone number, and you guessed it, she had also switched to a new mobile service provider years before. Of course, the story does not end there. This type of situation happens often enough that Microsoft has other methods with which you can get back into your email account. These tend to be far more laborious and time-consuming, though.
In addition to changing your password from time to time, you should also make it a habit to check on your password recovery options when you do. In the case of Outlook webmail, your account settings screen provides a Security & Password section where you can set your recovery options. If you have an old, unused email address or phone number listed, simply uncheck and it will be deleted. You can then add new contact information. There are several other options you can set as well, such as two-step verification, a smartphone app for verification and a recovery code that you can print out to stash away in a safety deposit box.
With so many stories cropping up about cyber security hacks, online services are offering more verification choices than ever. Take advantage of these locks and checks. Keep your passwords fresh and your recovery options up to date.