Hotmail is banning passwords such as 'password', '123456', 'ilovecats' and 'gogiants', in an attempt to make it harder for spammers to hijack users' email accounts.

People who sign up for the web email service will be prevented from using a password typically used by millions of others, Microsoft said in a blog post on Thursday.

"This new feature will be rolling out soon, and will prevent you from choosing a very common password when you sign up for an account or when you change your password," wrote Dick Craddock, group program manager for Hotmail. "If you're already using a common password, you may, at some point in the future, be asked to change it to a stronger password."

Hotmail subscribers already using one of the banned passwords may be asked to choose one that is harder for spammers and phishing gangs to guess in a brute force dictionary attack, Craddock added.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said people often use the first word that comes to mind, such as the brand of monitor they use, when prompted for a new password.

Full story: ZDNet UK