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Microsoft killing off Outlook linked accounts in favour of 'more secure' aliases

Microsoft is ditching the linked accounts feature on in favour of aliases, a "more robust and secure way" to manage multiple email addresses, the software giant has announced.

First introduced back in 2006, the linked accounts feature lets Outlook/Hotmail users quickly switch to another email account without having to enter a password. While it's a useful feature, Microsoft said it leaves accounts more vulnerable to hackers.

"We've found that quite often, people who use linked accounts keep their primary account's security info (including password and proofs) up to date, but don't lavish as much care on their secondary accounts," Eric Doerr, group program manager for Microsoft account, wrote in a blog post. "It's easier for a malicious party to compromise one of those secondary accounts, which gives them full access to your primary account."

With aliases, on the other hand, users will have one Microsoft account, which will unlock all of their email inboxes.

"You can send and receive email from different addresses and keep it all organized the way you like," Doerr explained. "And all of this is tied to a single Microsoft account that has your latest and most up-to-date security info."

Microsoft over the next few days will send an email about this change to everyone currently using linked accounts, explaining what to do. The company is planning to officially kill off the linked accounts feature "over the next couple months." It will begin the process of unlinking all linked accounts in late July.

To facilitate a smoother transition over to aliases and to help users consolidate their email addresses to one account, Microsoft has added a pair of features to mail forwarding and the ability to configure secondary accounts as a "send-only" address. Coupled together, these two features should let users receive and send email from a secondary address within their primary Microsoft account.

"I know it's a hassle to make changes when you have a setup that works," Doerr said. "We wouldn't ask you to do this if it wasn't important for your security."

The change comes after Microsoft last month rolled out the option to add two-factor authentication, another security feature, across its services. With two-factor authentication, users are required to enter two passcodes when accessing an account - a normal password and a code sent via text message, for example. made its debut last year as a replacement for Microsoft's aging Hotmail email service. The Redmond-based company completed the move from Hotmail to Outlook in early May. Though people can no longer sign up for email addresses, existing users can continue using them.