Microsoft Corp. no longer tolerates users of its Hotmail service using obvious passwords.

People who sign up for new webmail accounts will not be allowed to use "password," "123456," or common phrases like "ilovecats" as a password, Ars Technica reported Thursday. Microsoft may also force current users to change their passwords to more secure ones at a later date, the article said.

Many people use simple passwords at multiple sites, so that a common word or phrase may be all that blocks access to their email, online banking, Facebook and other accounts.

When these organizations are breached, password lists sometimes are posted online, in many cases revealing users' passwords to be extremely simple.

"Obvious passwords are abundant," the article said. "People consistently choose poorly. Blocking the use of these obvious passwords might be a little annoying for those who want to use them, but it's a move that's in everyone's best interest."

Microsoft has also added a feature that allows recipients of spam emails from a friend's hacked account to report that the account was hacked. This locks the account until the proper user regains control, the article said.