Microsoft accounts provide access to a wide range of popular services including Outlook, OneDrive, Xbox Live, and more. With so much personal and sensitive data connected to these accounts, it’s critical to take steps to secure your Microsoft accounts and prevent hacking attempts. This comprehensive guide will outline 50+ actionable tips, best practices, and proactive measures you can take right now to lock down your Microsoft accounts, avoid compromises, and keep your data safe.
Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) is one of the most important things you can do to secure your Microsoft accounts. 2FA adds an extra layer of protection beyond just a password by requiring a second form of identification to log in.
How to Enable 2FA
Enabling 2FA is simple:
- Sign into your Microsoft account and go to Security info
- Under More security options, choose Set up two-step verification
- Follow the prompts to set up your preferred 2FA method – app code, text message, etc.
With 2FA enabled, you’ll need to enter both your password and a generated code or approval whenever signing into a Microsoft service. This prevents anyone else from accessing your accounts even if they have your password.
Benefits of 2FA
- Prevents unauthorized access by requiring dual authentication
- Protects against compromised passwords through phishing, hacking, etc.
- Adds an extra barrier to prevent brute force login attempts
- Receiving login approval codes on your personal mobile device prevents access by others
Enabling 2FA is the single most effective way to secure Microsoft accounts against unauthorized access. All users should take advantage of this important security option.
Use Strong, Unique Passwords
While 2FA provides an essential extra layer of protection, using strong, unique passwords remains fundamental to account security.
Tips for Creating Secure Passwords
- Use 14+ random characters – longer is better
- Include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
- Avoid dictionary words, names, dates, patterns
- Don’t reuse passwords across accounts
- Consider using a password manager to generate and store secure passwords
With a strong, unique password, it becomes exponentially harder for hackers to guess or crack your password. This frustration factor alone will deter many opportunistic hacking attempts.
Regularly Change Passwords
In addition to using strong passwords, you should change your Microsoft account passwords periodically. This limits the chances of a compromised password being used over an extended period.
- Change passwords every 90 days at minimum
- Immediately change passwords if you suspect a breach
- Don’t reuse old passwords when rotating new ones
Making password changes part of your regular security routine will help ensure your accounts stay protected over time.
Use Incognito/Private Browsing
Browser incognito or private browsing modes provide added security when accessing Microsoft accounts by not saving your browsing history, cookies, site data and entered form data like passwords.
Benefits of Incognito/Private Modes
- Prevents account passwords being stored in browser
- Removes browsing session data after closing incognito tabs/windows
- Protects against malware or spyware that tracks browsing activity
- Keeps shared devices clean after accessing accounts
Only access and enter your Microsoft account credentials through incognito or private browsing windows. This provides a contained, secure environment separate from your normal browsing session.
Beware Phishing Attempts
Phishing scams aimed at stealing Microsoft account credentials are rampant. Stay vigilant against fake emails, text messages, and websites pretending to be Microsoft.
Identifying Phishing Red Flags
Watch for these common red flags of Microsoft phishing scams:
- Generic greetings like “Dear user” instead of your name
- Suspicious sender email addresses
- Mismatched links that don’t match the text
- Links to non-Microsoft domains
- Requests to update or verify account info
- Spelling/grammar errors
- Threats of account suspension
Never enter your login details after following links in unsolicited messages. Manually navigate to Microsoft sites if you need to access your accounts.
Keep Software Up-to-Date
Maintaining up-to-date software is critical for security. Out-of-date programs contain vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to compromise accounts.
Update These Programs Frequently
Always install the latest updates for:
- Microsoft Windows
- Web browsers like Edge, Chrome, Firefox
- Microsoft Office
- PDF readers, media players, etc.
- Router firmware
- Antivirus and security tools
Enabling automatic updates will ensure you’re consistently running the most secure software versions possible. This denies hackers the opportunities outdated programs provide.
Use Antivirus & Internet Security Tools
Antivirus software and internet security suites can provide another layer of protection when accessing Microsoft accounts by blocking malware, preventing risky connections, and more.
Key Protective Features
Look for security tools that offer:
- Real-time scanning and malware blocking
- Suspicious network traffic monitoring
- Phishing attempt detection
- Firewall to filter internet connections
- Web filtering against malicious sites
- Ransomware protection
- Parental controls
Top rated solutions like Norton 360, McAfee Total Protection, and Bitdefender are proven to bolster security across all internet activity.
Avoid Public/Unsecured Wi-Fi
Accessing accounts over open public Wi-Fi is extremely risky due to the lack of encryption. This allows snooping of login details and account activity.
Use Caution When Connecting Through:
- Coffee shops
- Other public hotspots
Ideally avoid logging into Microsoft accounts completely from public networks. If necessary, use a VPN or your phone’s cellular connection for enhanced security.
Monitor Recent Activity
Routinely monitoring account activity can alert you to any unauthorized access attempts and let you respond quickly.
Checking Recent Sign-ins
- Sign in and go to Recent activity
- Review locations, IP addresses and times
- Check for any unfamiliar logins
- Go to Manage account > Security
- View IP addresses, locations, browsers for recent activity
- Check POP/IMAP/SMTP connections
Respond immediately to any suspicious access by changing passwords, enabling 2FA, contacting Microsoft, etc.
Use Secondary Email & Phone Numbers
Providing backup contact methods like a secondary email or phone number enables account recovery and prevents lockout if hackers compromise your primary contacts.
Recovery Options to Setup
- Add email address under Your info
- Add mobile number under Security info
- Add email alias under Manage account
- Add mobile number under Security info
Having backup verification methods in place means you’ll still have access if hackers take over your primary contact points.
Limit Account Linking
When you login to Microsoft services through sites like Reddit, Pinterest, etc using your Microsoft account, these third-parties gain access to profile data. Limiting account connections reduces your exposure.
Review Linked Accounts & Apps
- Sign in and go to Security info > Linked accounts
- Remove any unfamiliar or unnecessary app connections
- Revoke permissions for unused linked accounts
The fewer third-party connections, the lower your risk of a weak link being exploited to access your core Microsoft account. Only link required apps.
Deprioritize Xbox Live Account Security
For Xbox Live accounts, don’t reuse the same credentials as other important Microsoft accounts. Keep your gaming account separate with unique login details.
Why Xbox Accounts Are High Risk
- Frequent attacks by hackers for gaming purposes
- Account lockouts have limited impact
- Gamertags and achievements have little monetary value
Since Xbox accounts have less severe consequences when compromised, don’t reuse credentials from bank, email, or other critical accounts.
Use Strong Account Recovery Options
Having reliable contact points on file lets Microsoft properly authenticate you when attempting account recovery.
Ensure Accurate Recovery Info
- Check Security info for recovery email, phone, etc
- Setup trusted contacts under Account recovery
- Confirm current email and phone under Manage account
- Add trusted contacts for verification
With accurate and current recovery contact info, you can regain access if locked out of your accounts.
Limit Shared PC Access
When accessing Microsoft accounts on shared or public computers, make sure to fully logout when finished.
Preventing Leftover Access
- Close all open browsers entirely rather than just the tabs/windows
- Log out of Microsoft services before closing the browser
- Avoid selecting “Keep me signed in” when logging in
Not properly logging out gives the next user an opportunity to access your Microsoft account. When using shared devices, be hyper vigilant about logging out.
Avoid Saving Login Info in Shared Browsers
If accessing a shared browser, never save your Microsoft account login details like usernames or passwords.
Precautions on Shared Devices
- Don’t select “Remember me” when logging in
- Delete any autofilled usernames/passwords
- Clear browser history and cookies after logging out
Saving login info provides easy access for anyone else using that device. Be extra cautious about what browser data you store.
Use Unique Payment Info
For Microsoft accounts used for purchases, use payment details like credit cards or PayPal accounts that are completely unique and not used anywhere else.
Why Unique Payment Methods Matter
- Keeps potential fraud contained if account compromised
- Prevents access to other accounts by reusing payment info
- Easier to monitor for suspicious transactions
- Limits personal financial data exposure
With payment details unique to your Microsoft account, you can spot unauthorized purchases more easily.
Login Anonymously Whenever Possible
For Microsoft services or forums that permit anonymous access, always use this option rather than signing in.
Why Anonymous is More Secure
- No usernames or passwords exchanged
- No personal data visible
- No account lockout risks if you enter credentials incorrectly
- No connections established allowing account access later
Logging in anonymously provides an added layer of protection whenever the option is available.
Monitor Accounts Regularly
Make regularly checking up on your Microsoft accounts part of your routine security regimen. This allows you to spot and respond to any suspicious activity early on.
What to Check Weekly
- Recent login details
- Linked accounts or apps
- Backup info for recovery contacts
- Password strength
- Payment sources if purchasing enabled
- Subscription expirations if applicable
Consistent monitoring helps you stay on top of your account security and take corrective actions at the first sign of trouble.
Use a Password Manager
A dedicated password manager provides immense account security benefits for managing Microsoft account credentials and more.
- Securely generates and stores strong, unique passwords
- Automates password changes
- Syncs passwords encrypted across devices
- Offers shared access for teams
- Provides password auditing and reporting
Top password managers like LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password make account security much easier.
Sign Out of All Sessions Remotely
If your Microsoft account credentials are ever lost or compromised, remotely signing out of all active sessions can prevent continued access.
How to Sign Out Everywhere
- While signed in, go to Security info > Additional security > Sign out everywhere
- Confirm by entering password
- Go to Manage account > Security > Additional security > Sign out everywhere
- Enter password to confirm
Signing out everywhere revokes access across all browsers and devices instantly. Use this if credentials fall into the wrong hands.
Enable Login Notifications
Enabling login notifications allows Microsoft to alert you anytime your account credentials are entered. This lets you monitor access attempts in real time.
Turning on Login Alerts
- Under Security info, toggle on Get notifications
- Select how you want to be alerted
- Under Manage account > Security, turn on Suspicious sign-in alerts
- Pick email, SMS, or app notifications
With notifications enabled, you’ll know immediately when your credentials are used to try accessing your Microsoft accounts.
Avoid Signing in From Email Links
Never login directly from password reset or account verification links received via email. These types of links are commonly used in phishing schemes.
- Disregard any emails with login links
- Navigate independently to Microsoft site
- Enter credentials directly on legitimate site
By only logging in from trusted pages you access yourself, you avoid falling for phishing traps.
Limit Account Usage on Rooted/Jailbroken Devices
Hacked mobile devices are prime targets for stolen credentials. Avoid accessing Microsoft accounts on rooted or jailbroken phones and tablets.
High Risk with Compromised Devices
- Removes critical system protections
- Allows sideloading of malware apps
- Grants elevated privileges for spying
- Unable to detect malicious software
Refrain from logging into important accounts on any devices with reduced security protections.
Avoid Saving Cookies and Site Data
Cookies and site data cached by Microsoft services can potentially be exploited to gain access. Limit what’s saved for greater security.
Tips for Safer Browsing
- Disable auto-saving cookies, site data, passwords in browsers
- Delete cookies and site data after each visit
- Never save login credentials
- Use incognito/private mode
With minimal account data cached locally, hackers will have less to leverage for account takeovers.
Read Permission Requests Carefully
When granting app or site permissions to your Microsoft account, read carefully to only allow access to what is absolutely necessary.
Principles for Safer Permissions
- Only enable permissions an app obviously needs to function
- Avoid granting broad offline or cross-account access
- Revoke contact/email permissions whenever possible
Strictly limit permissions to protect your sensitive account data falling into the wrong hands.
Avoid Syncing Accounts Across Multiple Devices
Syncing Microsoft accounts across multiple devices is convenient but adds multiple potential points of compromise. Limit syncing wherever feasible.
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Where to Avoid Syncing
- Shared family computers
- Spouse’s devices
- Work laptops and machines
- Old smartphones or tablets no longer in use
- Untrusted internet connections
With accounts isolated on your personal, private devices, there are fewer avenues for external exploits.
Use Secondary Accounts for Risky Sites
When accessing questionable third-party sites and services, use a secondary “burner” Microsoft account with limited permissions rather than your primary login.
Why an Extra Account Helps
- Prevents primary account lockout if guessing wrong password
- No risky permission grants on important accounts
- Disposable credentials in case of compromise
- Prevents emails and spam to your real address
Maintaining a separate secondary account just for use on sketchy sites limits your main account exposure.
Avoid Microsoft Account Reuse Across Household
Each family member should have their own unique Microsoft account rather than reusing credentials across multiple people and devices.
Dangers of Account Sharing
- Activity and purchases difficult to audit and trace
- Password changes impact all users
- Account recovery can lock out everyone
- Exposes identities and shared payment methods
While inconvenient, each person maintaining their own separate account is far more secure.
Never Save Credit Card Details
If making purchases through Microsoft accounts, never opt to save full credit card details. This provides hackers open access to your finances.
Safer Payment Options
- Manually enter card details each purchase
- Use digital wallet like PayPal whenever possible
- Consider prepaid/temporary card numbers
- Setup transaction alerts for your card
By limiting stored payment information, you make it harder for criminals to exploit your accounts financially.
Enable Passwordless Account Access
For premium security, enable completely passwordless Microsoft account login using FIDO security keys or the Microsoft Authenticator app.
Benefits of Passwordless Sign In
- No vulnerable passwords that can be phished
- Enhanced protection against brute force attacks
- Easy biometric sign in using fingerprint or face ID
- No worries about keeping track of rotating passwords
Passwordless authentication strategies prevent many common account takeover techniques.
Should I use a password manager for Microsoft accounts?
Yes, dedicated password managers like 1Password and LastPass are highly recommended for generating, storing, and syncing strong, unique passwords across your Microsoft accounts safely. The convenience and security benefits are immense.
What’s the best way to choose secure passwords?
Microsoft accounts should have randomly generated passwords that are 14+ characters, completely random, use upper/lowercase/symbols, and avoid dictionary words or personal info. Password managers make generating and remembering passwords like this effortless.
Is two-factor authentication really necessary for Microsoft accounts?
Absolutely – 2FA is arguably the most important security precaution you can enable. The exponential increase in account protection is well worth the small extra step when signing in. Treat 2FA as mandatory, not optional, for secure access.
Should I use a VPN when accessing Microsoft accounts remotely?
Using trusted VPN connections when accessing accounts over public Wi-Fi or cellular data is highly advisable. This encrypts your login details and prevents snooping of account activity. Free VPN provider options like ProtonVPN offer sufficient protection.
What tips prevent phishing when using Microsoft accounts?
Be vigilant against phishing by looking for red flags in messages like poor grammar, threats, and suspicious links. Never login through email or text links – navigate independently to Microsoft sites to enter credentials instead. Enabling login notifications also helps spot phishing.
Is it safe to access Microsoft accounts from public computers?
It’s best to avoid using shared or public machines for accessing sensitive accounts when possible. If unavoidable, enable private browsing mode, never save login details or site data, and fully logout by closing all browser windows when finished.
Securing your valued Microsoft accounts takes vigilance, but is well worth the effort. By consistently following essential tips around passwords, 2FA, phishing avoidance, security tools, restricted permissions and access, you can keep your Microsoft accounts locked down and personal data safe. Some best practices only take minutes to implement but provide immense ongoing protection.
Make multi-layered security around Microsoft accounts an immediate priority. Incorporate the comprehensive