A lot of us look at a new year as an opportunity to greatly improve our lives. Maybe your resolution is to hit the gym regularly or commit to fewer processed foods—regardless, there are endeavours that take serious commitment, and others that take just a few minutes to accomplish. A really simple, really beneficial task you should add to your 2021 to-do list is to lock down some of your most important online accounts—and we’re going to walk you through it.
Don’t wait on this—in December, the US government suffered a massive cybersecurity attack that targeted, among other things, Microsoft Office. It turns out foreign hackers were monitoring email accounts between the US treasury Department and the National Telecommunications and Informations Administration.
Microsoft hasn’t identified any vulnerabilities with their applications or cloud services, which is definitely good, but they did share some guidance encouraging users to ensure they are doing all they can to protect their data.
It’s important that we all take these precautions, for both personal and business accounts.
What Does My Microsoft Account Cover?
More than likely, it covers a whole lot. For personal users, your Windows license is tied to your Microsoft account, and if you have Office or use any other Microsoft applications or services, they are looped in under that account too. This includes Outlook emails, cloud storage with OneDrive, and even Xbox Live/Gamepass accounts. Basically, if Microsoft has a hand in it, it’s probably tied to your Microsoft account. For businesses, it’s almost guaranteed that you are using it as well. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the main services that fall under a Microsoft account:
- Xbox Live
- Microsoft Store
How to Update Your Microsoft Password
Thankfully, Microsoft makes it really easy to update your account password.
- Visit https://account.microsoft.com/
- Click Sign In on the top right, if you aren’t already signed in. If you are already signed in, the page will display your name with options about your subscriptions and other services. Once you sign in with your email and password, you’ll be taken to this page.
- Towards the top of the page, on the right-hand side, you’ll see an option that says Change Password. Click it.
- If you have Two-step verification enabled, it will walk you through verifying your account with a text, an email, or using the Microsoft Authenticator app. If you don’t have that set up, don’t worry, we’re going to get you set up after you change your password.
- Once prompted, enter your current password, and then come up with a brand new password.
IMPORTANT: Never use the same password on multiple accounts. Your passwords should be unique, complex, and not contain personally identifiable information (like your date of birth or your name). Random is best. When in doubt, pick four totally random, unrelated words. Make sure some letters are capitalized and others are lowercase, and put numbers and symbols between them. The more complex your password is, the better.
Microsoft offers a checkbox to require you to change your password every 72 days. I know that sounds like a pain, but it’s worth doing. Check it, and it will help keep you in the habit of protecting your account.
You’re Not Done, Let’s Lock Things Down While We are at It
I promise this will be quick, and it’s important.
After changing your password, Microsoft will conveniently take you to their account security page. On the top right, you’ll see an option that says Two-step Verification. If you don’t have this on, click it. If you are using a Microsoft 365 account through work, you may need your administrator to turn it on and give you further instructions. You’ll want to reach out to us if you need help.
You’ll be walked through the process of setting up two-step verification. Follow the on screen instructions. If you do not already have an authenticator app on your smartphone (like Google Authenticator, Lastpass Authenticator, Duo Mobile, Authy, etc.) you’ll be walked through setting up Microsoft Authenticator. If you prefer to use one of the other apps, you can opt to do so.
Follow all of the instructions to verify your contact information and set this up.
This will require you to use the Authenticator app to log into your Microsoft account on a new device, or make major changes to your Microsoft account (like updating a new password). It won’t require you to use the app every time you want to use Word or Outlook, though.
Pay attention to the verification emails/texts that Microsoft sends you during this process.
All in all, this whole process only takes a few minutes. If you need any help, or it’s time to audit your Microsoft/Office account across your workplace to ensure you and your entire staff are kept safe and secure, reach out to TAP Tech at 203-744-9760.