Proper Protocols Protect Privacy

March 01, 2011

According to Senator Chuck Schumer, the neighborhood coffee shop may not be the safest place, cyberwise, to use your laptop. He is asking websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo to switch from the standard HTTP protocol to the more secure HTTPS protocol. Most people are aware they need to watch for the HTTPS on all sites with which they interact with any financial issues, but we’ve been told we don’t need to worry about the extra security in general. Sen. Schumer said this is incorrect, at least when working in a WiFi environment, because other computers connected to the same WiFi network can easily hack into the connected laptops in the coffee shop. The problem is compounded by the availability of certain hacker-assist software that enables even the amateur hacker to sneak into other computers and snoop around all the files and stored information. In fact, Sen. Schumer recently demonstrated just how easy it IS to hack at a coffee shop, where one of his staff members easily hacked into another user’s Twitter account. If an untrained user such as this staff person could quickly access another computer on a WiFi network, Schumer reasons there is widespread potential of identity theft in the US. In his letter to the website providers, he stated, “Without HTTPS as the default for all interface with a website, anyone on a Wi-Fi network is subject to snooping. This means that a hacker could view a person’s personal login information, passwords, purchase activity, what kinds of products he is shopping for or articles he is reading, and much more.” Two major websites have switched to the more secure protocol. Next time you’re on Google, notice that the HTTPS protocol is the default. If you want the secure protocol to be your default setting on Facebook, you have to set it up that way. Simply go to your Facebook account, click on settings and go down to the security options; click on the option to make HTTPS active. It’s done in the time it takes to pronounce “grande half-caf cinnamon spice white mocha frappuccino”. Now, enjoy your coffee.



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