Today a coworker asked a couple of questions about a virus that was affecting his Hotmail account.  Specifically his Hotmail account sent spam messages to everyone in his contact repeatedly.  The only solution found was to delete everyone from the contact list and stop using the account.  Not the best solution but an effective one at least.

While discussing the Hotmail account my coworker asked the simple question of how to delete the account completely. Keep reading for this and some more tips on using Hotmail.

How to delete your Hotmail account
Closing or deleting a Hotmail account is actually a pretty simple process.  It is important to understand what closing the account actually means however. When you follow the following steps your account will be marked as inactive.  Your account will sit there “inactive” still receiving emails and acting like a normal account.  Depending on where you read anywhere from 10-30 days later your email contents and contact lists will be erased.  90 days later your account will finally be deleted and the email address will open up to anyone else who signs up for it.

Anytime during that 90 day window you can log back into the account which will make it active again.  Here is a link to the Microsoft Support page giving further directions.  We’ve also listed them below.  So have patience and follow these directions:

After logging into your account your profile name is displayed in the upper right corner.  Next to your name will be a small downward pointing arrow.  Clicking on the downward arrow will give you a list of options that apply to your account. We’re looking for the “Account”  link here to access the account page.  It should look something like this:

After clicking on “Account” you will be present with a new administrative page giving you access to several options dealing with your account.  Look toward the bottom of the page under the “Other options” section.  The 6th option down is a link to “Close your account.”

After clicking the “Close your account” link you will be presented with a page full of information about closing your account.  We found it interesting during our testing that about 50% of the time the “Close your account” link led to a blank page that indicated there was an error with our request, try again.  As the error indicated we hit refresh a few times and were presented with the close your account page as expected.  You will be presented with a password form to confirm your identity but entering that password and clicking submit closes your account.

Turn on Encrypted Connections / Https:
When you connect to www.hotmail.com by default your connection is not encrypted.  That being said anyone who is on the same network as you can run software that copies the data being sent across the network.  When you login to Hotmail the data you send includes your username and password.  This is why using a secured / encrypted connection is vital when using WiFi networks in coffee shops, the mall or any other location that is open to anyone to join (and listen!).

Hotmail gives you the option to force secured connections by using Https://.  On your “Account” page look  at the “Other Options” listing toward the bottom.  An image of the “Other options” is presented above in the close your Hotmail account section.

The bottom option there “Connect with HTTPS” will give you the option to turn on secured (https://) connections each time you access  Hotmail.  Make sure to read through the whole page as the option only applies to those logging in through webmail (http://www.hotmail.com) and not those using a 3rd party program like Outlook or Apple’s Mail program to access their email.   In our opinion using Https:// shouldn’t be an option…it should be mandatory.  Once Https:// is turned on your URL should look something like this:

Add a trusted mobile phone to receive password reset information
Hotmail allows you to set trusted mobile phone that can be used during the password recovery process.  Instead of answering a security question or receiving an email at a different email account if you need to reset your password you can instead opt to have a text message sent to your cell phone.  The option is located on your “Account” page under the “Password reset information” section.  It should look something like this:

Click on the word “Add” next to mobile phone to add your cell phone number.  Once that is completed you will have the option to send a text message code that will be needed to reset your password.

Obviously losing your cellphone would not help with this option but if you feel confident you can always remove the 2nd email from your account and just go with the text message recovery option.

Summary and other security suggestions
Some other security suggestions when using Hotmail or any other type of online accounts:

1) Change your password frequently and use different passwords for different services.  You may trust company x not to get hacked but if company y gets hacked and you use the same password on x & y, then it doesn’t matter how good of a password it is.

2) Always use https://

3) Check your account settings occasionally to make sure your email isn’t forwarded or setup to Bcc’ anyone automatically without your knowledge

4) Check your account settings occasionally to make sure your password recovery options are set the way you want them

5) When sending emails to a group or forwarding messages that have been sent to a group consider using Bcc’ instead of the normal “To:” box.  This prevents anyone on the email from automatically gaining access to all of your other contacts.

6) Never click on unknown / unexpected links in emails even if the email originates from someone you know.  The chance that it is a virus or spam that was forwarded without your friend’s knowledge probably outweighs the delay of watching that “funny video click here”.

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