I know we have covered this before, but given the recent news that the Sony PlayStation Network has been hacked, exposing the account details of over 70 million customers, no doubt some Xbox gamers may be feeling a little paranoid about the security of their Gamertag. Well here at Xboxer we are keen to make sure your gaming experience stays safe with a few more tips to help lock down your Xbox Live account and all the details within.

Use a dedicated email address

OK, this tip may seem a bit overkill, but having an email address that’s used for Xbox Live ONLY greatly reduces the risk of phishing attempts (which is covered a bit further down the page). The other bonus is that in the unlikely event that your email address gets stolen from Microsoft, the spammers won’t be flooding your main account with Viagra offers (unless you’re into that sort of thing, I don’t judge). To change the email address linked to your Gamertag, check out the support page here.

If you’re feeling really flush you could always buy your own domain, and use it with Google Apps to host your email. Then you can have as many email addresses as you want!

Choose a unique, strong password

If you have followed the suggestion above, you now have an email address that you haven’t given out to anyone, so you shouldn’t really need to check it all too often. In that case you can set up a fairly strong password to protect it (you don’t even need to remember it, surprisingly it can be quite safe to keep it written down and hidden at home, maybe under the Xbox?). Ideally a good password should be at least 12 characters long, be mixed case, and contain a minimum of 1 number and symbol.

For example: “Abcd3f$%2xYZ” is a lot more secure than “abcdefg”.

Just make sure this password is unique to your Xbox Live account, as if you use it on another site that gets compromised then you’re back to square one really.

Require a code to sign in from your Xbox

It’s so easy to have your Xbox sign you in automatically, but what happens if your console is stolen? The perpetrator will have free reign over your Gamertag, meaning they could do anything from playing embarrassing games, get you banned for console modding, or even rack up massive credit card bills (more on this next). Luckily there is a way to help prevent this by requiring a 4 button combination to be entered every time you sign into LIVE on your Xbox. Once you have signed in, go to “My Xbox”, click on your profile, choose account management, then Xbox Live passcode. When you have created this code you will need to enter it every time you sign into the Xbox.

Don’t tie your credit card to your Gamertag

This is quite an important one, though if you have followed the steps so far your account should be fairly safe already. If your Live account becomes compromised (i.e. a criminal has gained access to your Live email address and password), and your credit card is linked to it, then it’s a safe bet that they will go on a massive spending spree, leaving you to foot the bill. The best way to avoid this is to use prepaid cards for Microsoft Points and Gold Subscriptions. The bonus of this is that sites like Postabargain and Frugal Gaming are always on the lookout for the best deals on these so you might end up saving a few quid along the way as well.

If you’ve already tied your credit or debit card to your account, Microsoft have some simple steps to help you remove it.

Beware of phishing scams

All of the above security tips are absolutely useless if you fall victim of phishing. Criminals send you a message pretending to be from someone else (in this case probably Microsoft), in the hopes of fooling you into giving them your password. Usually these take the form of an email, but I have been sent messages over Xbox Live as well. Common tricks include: Telling you that your Windows Live ID will be deactivated, offering Microsoft Point or Gold subscription generators, and are even willing to help you earn achievements! All you need to do is give these people your Live ID email address and password, sounds too good to be true, right?

The main tip we can give you here is DON’T GIVE OUT ANY ACCOUNT DETAILS! If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Microsoft will never ask for your account details, either via email, Xbox Live, or telephone. Don’t click any email links If you’re unsure, and enter the address of the website into your browser. Don’t enter any info on a site, unless you are definitely sure it’s an official Microsoft site such as Microsoft.com, Xbox.com etc.

Always report any scam messages you may receive, it always helps and may stop somebody else potentially falling foul of these thieves.

In conclusion

Following the above advice won’t make your Gamertag and associated Live ID 100% bulletproof- nothing ever will, and it probably won’t protect you in the event of a PSN-style hack. But hopefully it will mean that you are in with a fighting chance of keeping your Gamerscore, and your bank balance in check.

If you have any concerns regarding your Xbox Live account, you can always visit the support site, tweet Microsoft’s dedicated Twitter support team, or contact them via your local customer services number.