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How to check your email account security - Outlook

ThisThis step-by-step guide will explain how to check the security of your email account for Outlook.com, Microsoft 365, Live, Hotmail, and MSN on your desktop.

Checking your email account security 

Email accounts are a common target for cybercriminals. If cybercriminals gain access to your email account they can steal your sensitive information, commit fraud or send emails pretending to be you.

Proactively reviewing your email account’s security will help you to prevent its compromise and increase your chances of regaining control if it becomes compromised.

Step 1: Change your password

If you are concerned that your email account has been hacked, it is important to log in to your account as soon as possible. Once logged in, you can change your password to disrupt a cybercriminal’s access and regain control over your email account.

If a cybercriminal has changed your password, skip to Step 1A to recover your email account.

1. Visit https://account.microsoft.com and select Sign in in the top right corner of the page. Enter your email address and select Next.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1-1

2. Enter your password and select Next.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1-2

3. Once logged in, select Profile icon (top right) and then select My Microsoft Account or My Account.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1-3

4. On the top menu bar, select Security.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1-4

5. Under Security Basics, on the Password security tile, select Change my password.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1-5

6. Enter your current password, your new password, confirm and select Save. By changing your password, all other sessions will be prompted for the new password which may take a few minutes.

After you have reset your password, skip to Step 2: Update your account recovery details.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1-6

When choosing a new password, consider creating a passphrase.
A passphrase uses four or more random words as your password, which is hard for cybercriminals to guess but easy for you to remember.
More information on creating strong passphrases is available from the ACSC.

Step 1A: Recover your email account

Recovery of your email account is only required if a cybercriminal has changed your password. If you have completed the previous step, you can skip this one.

Note that this recovery process will require you to confirm your identity by providing either your phone number or a recovery email address.

1. Visit https://account.microsoft.com and select Sign in in the top right corner of the page. Enter your email address and select Next.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1A-1

2. Select Forgot password?

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1A-2

3.If you have access to an external Email or Mobile phone to receive the recovery code, select the appropriate method and proceed to Step 4 of 1A.

If you don’t have access to any of these select I don’t have any of these and proceed to Step 5 of 1A.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1A-3

4. If you have a recovery code, enter it and select Use recovery code. Proceed to Step 2: Update your account recovery details. 

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1A-4

5. If you do not have any recovery accounts or a recovery code, select No which will begin the application process to recover your email address.

You may be required to provide an alternative email address to which a recovery code/email will be sent to and to complete an audio or visual CAPTCHA.

Provide as much information as possible as this will help you recover your account.

It may take several days or weeks to receive an outcome as your request is reviewed.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 1A-5

Step 2: Update your account recovery details

In some cases, a cybercriminal may change the recovery details of your email account. They can use this as a way to regain access to the email account even after you have changed your password. Be sure to check your account recovery details are linked to either a recovery email address or recovery mobile phone.

1. Select your Profile in the top right corner and select My Microsoft Account.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 2-1

2. Select Security in the top menu bar. You may have to re-enter your password again to verify you can make changes to sensitive information.  

Email Account Security Outlook Step 2-2

3. Under Security Basics, on the Advanced security options or Security contact info tile, select Get started or Update my info.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 2-3

4. Review the recovery details and select Remove for any security contact info you want to remove.

Note – if only one recovery mechanism is listed, and it is the one you want to delete, you will need to add a valid recovery mechanism first.

To do this select Add Security info. This can either can be a mobile number or an alternative email address.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 2-4

Step 3: Sign out of all other sessions 

Cybercriminals may be logged in to your email account after you have signed in.

By signing out of all sessions, you will disrupt a cybercriminal’s access and regain control over your email account.

1. Select your Profile icon in the top right corner and select My Microsoft Account

Email Account Security Outlook Step 3-1

2. Select Security in the top menu bar. You may have to re-enter your password again to verify you can make changes to sensitive information.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 3-2

3. Select Get started on the Advanced security options tile.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 3-3

4. Scroll down to Sign me out and select the Sign me out button. You will be prompted again to confirm whether or not you want to sign out. Select Sign me out.

Note that all account sessions on all browsers and devices will be signed out within 24 hours. Once completely signed out of all sessions and devices, sign back in again using your device to continue securing your Microsoft account.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 3-4

Step 4: Enable Multi-factor Authentication 

Turning on multi-factor authentication is the most important defence against cybercriminals gaining access to your email account.

Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for cybercriminals to gain access to your email account by making them guess two pieces of information rather than one (such as a password and a constantly changing PIN).

For a more detailed set of instructions, see the ACSC’s Step-by-Step guide Securing Google Accounts.

Step 5: Check account mail settings

Cybercriminals will sometimes set up ‘forwarding rules’ to send themselves a copy of emails coming into or leaving your email account. You should check your email account to see if cybercriminals have set up forwarding rules and delete any you don’t recognise.

1. Select Outlook in the navigation bar on the left.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-1

2. Select Settings (cog icon) in the top right corner.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-2

3. Scroll down and select View all Outlook settings.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-3

4. In the Mail side bar menu, select Rules in the sub-menu and view all the rules. Check for any rules you don’t recognise and remove them. To remove any rules, select the delete icon (trash icon) and select OK.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-4

5. Next, select Sync Email in the sub-menu and scroll down to view POP and IMAP.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-5

POP and IMAP are protocols that allow emails to be accessed through other applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird. Cybercriminals sometimes use these as another method of accessing your email account, as it can allow them to bypass some security measures such as multi-factor authentication.

Check to see if any of your emails are being accessed by any suspicious external email clients or applications via POP. If you don’t use an email application and only use an internet browser to access your emails, consider disabling POP as it can be used by cybercriminals to access your emails from another application.

IMAP should refer to a server relating to Outlook or Microsoft Office.


6. Next, select Forwarding in the sub-menu. From here you can check to see if any of your emails are being forwarded to another account.

Check that Enable Forwarding is unticked, or if forwarding is turned on, it is to an account you expected.

If forwarding is turned on to an account you don’t recognise then remove the address and turn it off by unticking the box.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-6

7. Next, use “Manage how you sign in to Microsoft” to see if there are any unusual account aliases still associated to your account. First go to My Microsoft Account.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-7

8. Select Your info.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-8

9. Then go to Sign-in preferences.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-9

10. Here, you will be able to manually remove any suspicious email addresses or phone numbers by selecting the Remove button.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 5-10

Step 6: Check third party application access

Have you ever linked your Microsoft account to a third party service?

Many websites and applications can use this method to avoid having to create a new user account. However, the connection this creates between your email account and the website/application is a common way for hackers to gain access to your email account.

Check if there are any apps or services that have access to your account and remove any that you don’t recognise or no longer require.

1. Select your Profile icon (top right), select My Microsoft Account or My Account..

Email Account Security Outlook Step 6-1

2. Select Privacy in the top menu bar.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 6-2

3. Scroll down to More privacy settings and under Apps and Services, select View app access details.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 6-3

4. This lists all the apps that can access data related to your account.

Select Edit, then select Remove these permissions for any that you didn’t configure yourself.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 6-4

Step 7: Check login activity 

Your login activity is a history of when and where someone has logged into your email account. Regularly review your login activity to check if your email account has been accessed at unusual times or from unusual locations.

1. Select your Profile icon (top right), select My Microsoft Account or My Account.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 7-1

2. Select Security in the top menu bar. You may have to re-enter your password again to verify you can make changes to sensitive information.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 7-2

3. Under Security Basics, on the Sign-in activity tile, click View my activity.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 7-3

4. Here you can check the time and location of the logins into your account to verify that your email account has not been accessed at unusual times or from unusual locations.

If you see any suspicious activity since your last password change, select the drop down arrow for that session and select Secure your Account to change your password. Consider using a unique strong passphrase as your password.

Note that if you do go ahead and Secure your Account, you will need to verify your identity and change your password.

This will also automatically log you out of all other existing sessions.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 7-4

Here are some things to consider to help you identify suspicious activity:

  • The Access Type – is this a device/browser/ application you are familiar with, use or own?
  • The Location (IP address) – was the login from a country you are familiar with?
  • The Date/Time – does the login date and time seem out of the ordinary?

Step 8: Determine the impact of unauthorised access to your email account

Once you have made sure cybercriminals don’t have access to your email account, you may want to consider checking your email folders, specifically your Sent, Draft and Bin folders. This will help you assess what actions a cybercriminal may have taken when they accessed your email account.

If someone has hacked into your email account, they may have tried to reset passwords for other online accounts that are linked to that email address. These could be for banking and finance, social media, or other accounts. Check for any password reset emails.

1. To check sent items, select Sent items in the side menu.

Search for emails that you did not send and take note of the recipient, whether attachments were included, what the email was requesting, and when it was sent.

Compare any unusual activity times with the time the email was sent. Check login activity every time you become aware that a criminal contacted someone from your email account.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 8-1

2. To check deleted items, select Deleted items in the side menu. You can recover deleted items by selecting Recover items deleted from this folder.

Undertake the same steps taken for your other folders, especially Drafts and Spam.

Email Account Security Outlook Step 8-2

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