Risk
11/1/2010
01:17 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Firesheep Simplifies Stealing Logins

Firefox extension created to shine a light on the problem of unencrypted websites fails, because rather than offering a solution, it only makes it worse.

Most people know that public Wi-Fi hotspots aren't the safest connections in the world and probably aren't the best place to be doing things like online banking. But you probably didn't realize just how easy it is to steal logins for email and services like Facebook from other people on a hotspot.

Well, thanks to a new Firefox extension called Firesheep, anyone can easily view other people on their network and, with a click of a button, assume another person's identity and login credentials from any non-secure site that the unwitting person is logged into.

Firesheep was created by two developers who are hoping to shine a light on the problem of websites that don't use SSL encryption throughout an entire user session. It has always been easy for the bad guys to view and steal login information from users accessing non HTTPS-secured websites and Firesheep is just making that a whole lot easier.

To a certain degree this is a worthwhile cause. Too many sites put users at risk of giving away their login information by their failure to use secure connections. However, I wish the Firesheep developers could have made their point without putting this tool in the hands of bad guys, cranky teens, and disgruntled employees everywhere.

And don't think that because a webmail site or ecommerce site uses SSL for the login page that you're safe. If SSL isn't enabled for the entire session, someone using Firesheep can still take over your account after you've logged in.

Also, this problem isn't limited to Wi-Fi hotspots. Someone using Firesheep can see and steal the login information from anyone on a shared network segment, whether that's a hotspot, a home network, or a company network.

How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions

So what can you do to avoid the dangers of Firesheep (and the older sniffing tools familiar to real hackers)?

For those traveling or using public networks and hotspots, a VPN is probably your best option, as it will encrypt your entire Internet connection. But not everyone has access to a VPN, especially when it comes to non-business users.

The second best option is to make sure that the site you are using has https enabled throughout the entire session. Some sites, like Google Gmail, now do this by default, but that isn't the case for every site.

Browser extensions such as HTTPS Everywhere and Force-TLS will make sure that your browser uses a secure connection when it is available.

However, not every site has the capability to run under HTTPS for an entire session. Some sites use it only for login (which doesn't protect you against Firesheep) and some don't use it at all.

In these cases, if you don't have a VPN handy, then I would advise not using these sites or services at all when you are on a network that you don't trust 100%.

Of course the best solution would be for all sites that need to protect user information, whether they are webmail, social networks, or ecommerce sites, to use HTTPS all the time.

And with the threat of Firesheep out there, they all might finally do that.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-3304
Published: 2014-10-30
Directory traversal vulnerability in Dell EqualLogic PS4000 with firmware 6.0 allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via a .. (dot dot) in the default URI.

CVE-2013-7409
Published: 2014-10-30
Buffer overflow in ALLPlayer 5.6.2 through 5.8.1 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) and possibly execute arbitrary code via a long string in a .m3u (playlist) file.

CVE-2014-3446
Published: 2014-10-30
SQL injection vulnerability in wcm/system/pages/admin/getnode.aspx in BSS Continuity CMS 4.2.22640.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the nodeid parameter.

CVE-2014-3584
Published: 2014-10-30
The SamlHeaderInHandler in Apache CXF before 2.6.11, 2.7.x before 2.7.8, and 3.0.x before 3.0.1 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (infinite loop) via a crafted SAML token in the authorization header of a request to a JAX-RS service.

CVE-2014-3623
Published: 2014-10-30
Apache WSS4J before 1.6.17 and 2.x before 2.0.2, as used in Apache CXF 2.7.x before 2.7.13 and 3.0.x before 3.0.2, when using TransportBinding, does properly enforce the SAML SubjectConfirmation method security semantics, which allows remote attackers to conduct spoofing attacks via unspecified vect...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.