Wednesday, February 21, 2007

QotW5: Who belongs to this E-mail?

The electronic mail is “a store and forward method of composing, sending, storing, and receiving messages over electronic communication systems” (E-mail, 2007). It is touted to be the backbone and idea behind the creation of the Internet, predating it by almost a decade!

Virtually everyone who subscribes to an internet service provider and has access to the internet has an e-mail account. I am no exception. I’ve had my Yahoo e-mail account ever since I was 14 years old. The e-mail has served me in a variety of ways ever since.

Besides receiving the conventional e-mails from friends and relatives who want to keep in touch, it is also a great way to collaborate with group project members to send relevant information to one another. Also, it is a great way to receive newsletters on your favorite hobbies, bands etc. As of late, I’ve been communicating with my elder brother who’s currently studying in Melbourne, via e-mail.

Breaking into and stealing someone’s e-mail account is not as simple as it was. E-mails come with a username and password in order to be accessed. For someone to assume your identity, he would have to know your username and password.

Moreover, if you use a public computer to access your e-mail account, you do not have to fear losing the account if you forget to log out from your account. Yahoo! has designed features that ensure that once the web browser is closed, you would require your password to log in again. Also, they’ve come up with a new feature called sign-in seal, which is a “secret message or image that you create to help protect your Yahoo! account from phishing” (What is a sign-in seal?, 2007).

However, interestingly in my case, I could suffer from impersonation. Impersonation is a “particularly costly form of identity deception” that is “relatively easy to pass as someone else online since there are relatively few identity cues” (Donath, 1996).

I share my e-mail account with my twin brother. We’ve shared the same e-mail account ever since we created it – hence the e-mail address

Initially, we had no qualms about sharing the same e-mail account because we did virtually everything together. We went to the same school, we knew the same friends, and some even referred to us as an entity, not individuals. Although we’ve come to an agreement over the years to read only the e-mails addressed to us, there have been occasions when he and I have read each other’s e-mails. While the information shared may not be sensitive, it still poses a problem since at any one time, one of us could decide to be cheeky and impersonate the other.

To solve this issue, my brother finally got his own account, although the bulk of the e-mails we receive are still sent to this account. One would think that twins would like to be associated together all the time. But even we have our own identities, and we definitely wouldn’t want to lose it to each other.


Donath, J. S. (1996). Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. Retrieved February 21, 2007 from

E-mail. (2007). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 21, 2007 from

What is a sign-in seal? (2007). Yahoo Security Center. Retrieved February 21, 2007 from


Kevin said...

It's interesting that you're sharing an email account with your brother. Anyway good exploration into how Yahoo! mail protects your identity. Full grades.

Graham "Ah Long" Choo said...

Thanks! I actually don't know how secure Yahoo! is compared with others like hotmail or google, but it's working fine with me so far =P