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It's easy to mistakenly send someone a link directly to your Hotmail mail. The good news it that, unless they know your password, it's a benign mistake.

I was talking to someone in an Instant Messenger while I was reading through my emails. I found a funny email that was sent to me that linked to another site and I decided to send that link to my friend. I wasn't paying attention and I sent him a link to the actual email in my Hotmail account rather than the link that opened in a separate window. Can he access my account through that link or will it only access from the my IP on my computer?

It's an easy mistake to make - I frequently copy and/or paste the wrong thing in to email messages or other items. Still it pays to be careful.

The good news here is that it's very unlikely that your friend could now access your email. While it has nothing to do with the IP address of your machine, it does have everything to do with Hotmail's security.

What's likely to happen is that if your friend clicks on that link to your email, he'll be prompted to login. Now, naturally, if he can login as you, then he could read the email. But unless he knows both your email address and your password, he won't get through.

Hotmail, and other services like it, use several techniques to maintain the security of your email. One of the most common is something you've probably heard of before: cookies. Cookies are typically small bits of information that are stored on your computer by a web site. One of those might be translated in English as "user someone@hotmail.com has logged successfully on this machine". By remembering that, the web site doesn't have to ask you to login over and over again as you move from page to page.

"Hotmail, and other services like it, use several techniques to maintain the security of your email."

But that cookie is stored on your machine - which means it's not stored on your friend's machine. He's not logged in as you. So when he attempts to access an email in your account, he must first prove that he's authorized to do so - by logging in.

Cookies are also not permanent - they're set to expire after a certain amount of time. That means that even you will have to login again after a while. If you select the "keep me logged in" option on a sign-in dialog, that usually just means that the expiration time for the cookie is changed from minutes or hours, to days or weeks.

So, naturally, the right thing to do would be to paste the link you intended, or perhaps forward the email that had it. But mistakes happen, and the good news is that it's just not that easy to let someone else into your account.

Article C2881 - December 27, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Ian
December 20, 2009 1:03 PM

Hi,somebody is sending emails to my contacts using my email address to which i havent sent.How can this be?have i been hacked into? I do have full internet security avg 9,could you please let me know what action to take if any as i find this quite worrying! I have changed my password so far,but that is all. Many thanks Ian.

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