Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Hotmail is the largest free email service on the internet. As a result, Hotmail draws both millions of users and those who would abuse them.
Why is Hotmail such a magnet for hackers, spammers, and...?
I cut off this question because it went on to be somewhat less than complimentary to Hotmail users.
And that's just not fair.
"Magnet" is a reasonable term and Hotmail is a magnet for hackers, spammers and others for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it's free and easy.
But I do believe that it's getting better.
Hotmail is owned by Microsoft. In fact, its true name is Windows Live Hotmail, having been placed under the Windows Live umbrella. 1
More than anything else, that means it's ubiquitous. Just about anyone with a Windows machine is encouraged by the Windows setup and maintenance process to create a Hotmail account in order to access assorted Windows Live features that might now even be directly related to Hotmail itself.
Given the number of Windows installations, that's a lot of Hotmail accounts.
Malware authors and hackers love big targets.
Many people use Hotmail as their first email experience.
Personally, I think that's great - Hotmail and other free email services are perfect for people just getting on to the 'net and learning the ropes.
The downside is that these are people just getting on to the 'net and learning the ropes. They don't necessarily have the experience that allows them to make good judgments about passwords, attachments, links, and other safety-related issues.
Malware authors and hackers know this and work hard to exploit people's lack of internet safety savvy.
This is somewhat redundant with the first two points and certainly not unique to Hotmail, but being free matters.
For many people, "Hotmail" is synonymous with free email. Even if they're not intending to use Hotmail every day (though millions and millions of people do), Hotmail's the place that they go when they need a throw-away email account. Particularly with throw-away accounts, they may not bother to put into place the proper amount of security as they set things up.
Malware authors and hackers are also cheap and, as a result, when they need to set up an account for their less-than-honorable purposes, they also often think of Hotmail first.
Hotmail is one of the oldest-surviving, free email services and has been through its own set of growing pains.
For example, it was once very easy to create a lot of Hotmail accounts in an automated fashion. That's long since been thwarted with things like the Captcha that "proves" that you're human at account creation time.
It was once possible to send large volumes of email via Hotmail. That's been addressed by rate limits imposed by the service.
It was once possible to send a single email to a large number of people at once. That's been addressed by recipient limits.
In many ways, Hotmail has been the test-bed for spammers and hackers and at times, Hotmail has been slow to respond. But, eventually, they do respond and improve their service.
As hackers and spammers devise new ways to abuse the service, Hotmail will eventually respond.
Like most free email services, Hotmail has no real customer support. Initially, it had almost nothing at all, which is one reason I believe that its reputation suffered. Hotmail users with problems - be they legitimate questions or issues relating to malicious activity - had nowhere to really turn. Hackers knew this and targeted Hotmail accounts even more, knowing that once they had compromised an account, it was likely to remain that way.
Slowly (and I do mean slowly), Microsoft has improved some of the resources available to Hotmail users. There is still no direct phone or email-based support. Honestly, that's probably too much to expect from a service that is completely free.
However, there is a growing knowledge base of useful support articles to those willing to search for them. In addition, there's a fairly active support forum where Hotmail customers can help each other and where the occasional Hotmail support engineer will also jump in to help.
Even with its improvements, Hotmail still has a poor reputation in the email industry.
I know that I get more questions and issues related to Hotmail than to any other email service, free or paid.
I think that in part because of its history, in part because of its reputation, and it part because of its sheer size that Hotmail will always be a magnet for both those seeking free and easy email accounts and those wanting to exploit them.
1: Today. Hotmail has gone through several name changes over the years: HoTMaiL, MSN Hotmail and today's Windows Live Hotmail. Who knows what the next name will be, or when?