Microsoft is making a concerted effort to beef up the security of Hotmail email accounts, the Redmond outfit announced in a blog post this week.
"Last week we purged hijackers from legitimate Hotmail accounts that had been identified as compromised, and earlier this month we used legal action to take down a range of domains used by hijackers known as the Waledac botnet," Microsoft said. "Today, we are releasing new features to safeguard everyone's account from hijackers."
Those safeguards include two new "proofs" for account recovery. One involves linking your Hotmail account to one or more of your PCs, so if you need to reset your account, you just need to be using your PC. The second proof option is your cell phone number, where you can receive a secret code via SMS to reset your password.
Yahoo plans to revamp its Yahoo Mail service, in part to improve the speed of the service in overseas markets where connections are typically slower than here in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports.
It's part of a project codenamed "Minty," and in addition to a faster underlying architecture, Yahoo will also be giving its email service a bit of a facelift, one that will make the service better resemble the simple design of the downloadable email app.
"We continue to innovate our product experiences, and specific to Yahoo Mail, we have been previewing our next version of email that provides higher performance, sleeker design, and great integration" with social-networking services, a Yahoo spokesman said.
The makeover comes at a time when Yahoo Mail still ranks as the No. 1 Web-based email service in the U.S. with 97 million unique visitors in August. Not only is that more than Gmail, but it's more than Gmail and Hotmail combined. At the same time, that number is down from about 107 million visitors Yahoo Mail recorded in August, 2009.
Even at the risk of political party mud slinging that typically accompany these kinds of stories, there's definitely something here worth discussing, and that's what kind of punishment should be levied for abusive emails. Let's back up a moment.
Luke Angel, a 17-year-old British teenager, is now permanently banned from ever setting foot on U.S. soil. What did he do to warrant such a punishment? He fired off an inebriated email to the White House in which he called President Barack Obama the "P" word (and he wasn't talking about felines), among other things, Sky News Online reports.
The FBI intercepted the message and then contacted U.K. police.
"The police who came around took my picture and told me I was banned from America forever," Angel said.
According to the local police, "the individual sent an email to the White House full of abusive and threatening language. We were informed by the Metropolitan Police and went to see him. he said, 'Oh dear, it was me.'"
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wasn't willing to discusses specifics in this particular case, but did say that there are about 60 reasons a person can be banned from the U.S.
So what do you think, was the punishment too harsh or right on the money?
It's the vicious cycle of modern life. The more important and established you become, the more email clogs your inbox. Google is out to help with a new Gmail feature called Priority Inbox. This new interface, which will be rolling out to users in waves over the coming days, will present messages more likely to be important in a separate area at the top of the inbox.
Gmail decides what is important with a good old fashioned Google algorithm. Mail similar to that which you frequently read or respond to will be marked as important an promoted to the priority area. Users can alter this sorting process, and teach the Priority Inbox what's actually important by flagging mis-categorized items. This new inbox view also makes better use of the starred mail label by creating a starred mail area right below the Priority box.
The jury is still out on how effective and useful the new system is. We just got access to it ourselves, so it's hard to say how it will work out. As usual, Google has a cute animation explaining the feature, which you can catch at the source link. Have you had a chance to use Priority Inbox? How well is it working for you?
Spam senders aren't just a slimy bunch, they're apparently a busy bunch, too. So much so that spam now accounts for 92 percent of all email messages, according to a new study by Symantec. Let that sink in for a moment. Less than one out of every 10 messages you receive is legit.
That's up from last year when spam accounted for 89 percent of all email. At this rate, in a little over two years, only about 1 percent of all email will be legit.
Spam isn't just annoying, it also poses a security threat. These messages often contain links to malicious downloads and URLs, and according to Symantec, a new type of attack that spoofs an e-commerce site's "live chat" feature is making the rounds.
"The phishing site involved bogus chat sessions to help the page look more authentic, trying to give cutomers the impression that the phishing website was interactive," Symantec said.
Looking for a sliver lining? You won't find much of one, though Symantec did say that the amount of spam containing a phishing attack decreased by 5 percent from June to July of this year.
Who said the Internet is for porn? According to a recent study conducted by the Nielsen Company, nowadays the Internet is predominately used for two things: social networking and gaming.
Unsurprisingly, a whopping 22.7 percent of online time is spent on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which actually sounds like a bit of a conservative estimate to us, seeing as the magic of cell phone technology means that – for us, at least – Facebook is always only one five-second stretch of boredom away.
Online games, meanwhile, snagged a silver medal in the time-devouring contest with 10.2 percent, catapulting them ahead of email's 8.3 percent.
Interesting stuff, huh? What we're wondering, though, is how long it'll be before all our web activities are rolled into one writhing, Katamari-like conglomerate. After all, tools like Facebook are already replacing email, and games like Farmville encourage you to bug your buddies until they embark on an addiction-based journey of equal parts self-loathing and rural discovery, all so you can have your crops fertilized one time. It's a big loop. Games are becoming more social, and social networks are becoming more game-like. Meanwhile, everything else that Nielsen listed – instant messaging, email, videos, etc. – is getting gobbled up by social media's giant, unhinged jaw.
And that's just the present. It's all at once exciting and utterly terrifying to imagine what our media-centric, almost-disturbingly interconnected future holds if things continue at their current pace. Or, you know, you could just read Snow Crash.
Google pulled off a coup last year when it was awarded a contract worth $7.25 million by the City of Los Angeles to move 30,000 employees to its cloud-based email solution. It was a huge triumph not only because CSC’s (Computer Sciences Corporation) proposal for Google Apps – both companies have joined forces for this project – was picked from 15 proposals but also due to the fact that Microsoft was among those snubbed. This was seen as an alarming development for Microsoft’s popular Office productivity suite.
Google and CSC’s victory celebrations are long over and the June 30 deadline history, but so far only 10,000 city employees have been moved to Google apps while the rest, including 13,000 L.A.P.D members, are still stuck with a traditional email solution provided by Novell. The delay stems from the security concerns raised by the Los Angeles Police Department, which is particularly worried about data encryption.
"We've had a lot of technical issues, some we've created and some we haven't," said Los Angeles CTO Randi Levin. "We underestimated the amount of time it was going to take." According to a MarketWatch report, the two companies have agreed to compensate the city for all costs it incurs during the course of the delay.
Windows Live Essentials 2011, now available in a public beta, is the local client component of Microsoft Windows Live, a collection of programs and web services. WLE 2011’s components include photo editing and organization (WL Photo Gallery), video editing (WL Movie Maker), email and calendar (WL Mail), instant messaging and social media (WL Messenger), blogging (WL Writer), cross-platform file synchronization and Windows remote access (WL Sync), and web and IM filtering (WL Family Safety). Before the public beta was released in late June, Windows Live Essentials 2011 was known as Windows Live Essentials Wave 4. In this article, you’ll learn what new and improved features the latest WLE wave brings with it.
Adding insult to injury, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) inadvertently shared potentially thousands of emails from gamers who wrote to complain about Blizzard's short lived policy of requiring its forum members use their real names. Oops!
Yesterday we sent an e-mail to a number of consumers who wrote to us in recent days expressing their concern with respect to Blizzard's Real ID program. Given the large number of messages we received, we decided to respond with a mass e-mail so those who'd written us would receive our response as quickly as possible - rather than responding to each message individually, as is our usual practice.
Through an unfortunate error by one of our employees, some recipients were able to see the e-mail addresses of others who wrote on the same issue. Needless to say, it was never our intention to reveal this information and for that we are genuinely sorry. Those who write to ESRB to express their views expect and deserve to have their contact and personal information protected. In this case, we failed to do so and are doing everything we can to ensure it will not happen again in the future.
The fact that our message addressed individuals' concerns with respect to their privacy underscores how truly disappointing a mistake this was on our part. We work with companies to ensure they are handling people's private information with confidentiality, care and respect. It is only right that we set a good example and do no less ourselves.
We sincerely apologize to those who were affected by this error and appreciate their understanding.
Every now and then, I'm reminded of the Internet's power to really screw things up.
As I go about my normal day as a technology journalist, half of the stories I catch across the wire are usually something related to the unfolding social landscape of the Web 2.0. Google's catching Facebook; Facebook's catching Google; Someone is making a new way to interact with Twitter (oh joy!) I find this relatively disinteresting, save for the fact that each new announcement heralds in just one more way by which every action in our lives is transforming into an accessible, traceable record for all to see.
One of my friends unfortunately learned this lesson a little too well this past week. It cost him a pretty solid gig at the ol' Washington Post, and now has me forever wondering if my "Apple Rules, Woo" comments throughout Maximum PC's various articles might, too, have gone a step too far...
But I don't blame me; I blame our growing culture of online social oversharing. And with new products and linked networks coming in on a near-weekly basis, at what point do we stand up and wrest our digital lives back from everyone else's radars? Is it already too late?