Microsoft kills linked accounts functionality in Outlook.com
When Microsoft introduced Outlook.com as a Hotmail replacement that was equally good as both a personal and business email service, it also introduced linked accounts. Microsoft, however, has changed its mind about linked accounts and will scrap this functionality at the end of July.
Outlook.com Linked Accounts
Instead, according to a blog post by Microsoft’s Eric Doerr, Microsoft is introducing aliases, which provides users with a way to manage several email accounts without leaving the security hole created by linked accounts.
With linked accounts, users can switch from one email to another email account from the Outlook.com interface without having to sign-in and sign-out repeatedly.
While the ability to do this is very useful and saves a lot of time for those trying to manage multiple accounts and all the information in them, according to Doerr, users that have several accounts linked like this tend to look after the security of the primary account and forget to upgrade security in the secondary accounts.
As all the accounts are linked through the same password and access address, it means that if one of the secondary accounts are comprised then all the accounts will be compromised, including the primary account, no matter what security precautions are put in place.
But there’s more to it than just email accounts. Doerr says that they have discovered that this primary email address is also the way into other parts of users’ digital life. As an example, he cites the fact that many people use their email address to gain access to Windows, Xbox, or Office365, or to connect to Facebook, Twitter, or Apple ID.
So if any of these linked accounts are compromised the potential problems are huge. At the moment, Doerr says, Microsoft automatically unlinks all accounts when it registers suspicious activity in any one of those accounts.
But this does not go far enough, he says, so as of the end of next month they are stopping the practice and introducing aliases.
We believe that aliases provide a more robust and secure capability for managing multiple email addresses. You can send and receive email from different addresses and keep it all organized the way you like. And all of this is tied to a single Microsoft account that has your latest and most up-to-date security info,” he said.
An alias is an additional email address that uses the same inbox, contact list, and account settings as the primary account. You can sign in to your account with any alias -- they all use the same password -- and send email from an alias whether you’re using Outlook.com, a mail app like Outlook or devices such as a phone. Users can also create up to ten new aliases per year, for an overall maximum of ten. Deleting an alias removes it from the overall count. To make it easier to use, they have also added two new features:
- Mail forwarding: Account owners can forward all email from a secondary account to your primary.
- Send email from another account: Users can configure the secondary account as a "send-only" address.
The changes will be introduced over the coming weeks and will be preceded by an email to Outlook.com accounts outlining what needs to be done to move to the new system. If you don’t have linked accounts, of course, you won’t have to change anything.