Vulnerabilities / Threats
02:05 PM
Connect Directly

Firesheep Exposes Need For Encryption

Using Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Flickr, or other Web services on an open WiFi network could lead to lead to account hijacking.

An open-source Firefox extension called Firesheep has shined a spotlight on just how insecure it is to use unprotected WiFi networks.

It's widely known that unprotected WiFi networks make sensitive data readily available for anyone with the technical skill necessary to find it, as demonstrated by Google's four-year Street View WiFi data gathering odyssey.

Google got into trouble for being unaware that software in its Street View cars was vacuuming data, but those broadcasting sensitive information over their networks and those running Web services with inadequate security somehow escaped blame.

That may change, thanks to Firesheep, which allows anyone to scan unprotected WiFi networks for users who are logged into Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and a variety of other Web 2.0 services and to impersonate those users by hijacking their session cookie.

"On an open wireless network, cookies are basically shouted through the air, making these attacks extremely easy," wrote Firesheep creator Eric Butler in a blog post. "This is a widely known problem that has been talked about to death, yet very popular Web sites continue to fail at protecting their users. The only effective fix for this problem is full end-to-end encryption, known on the Web as HTTPS or SSL."

Butler says that Web sites have a responsibility to protect their users and that he hopes Firesheep will encourage Web sites to take action.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging Firefox users to employ an extension called HTTPS Everywhere to counter the threat. At its name suggests, HTTPS Everywhere tries to force every connection to use HTTPS encryption, though it only works if the Web site in question has implemented HTTPS.

"Firesheep makes loud and clear something that EFF has said for some time: major Web sites need to implement HTTPS properly and completely," wrote the EFF's Seth Schoen and Richard Esguerra in a blog post.

Another alternative is a Firefox extension called Force-TLS. Using a VPN also works.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
E-Commerce Security: What Every Enterprise Needs to Know
The mainstream use of EMV smartcards in the US has experts predicting an increase in online fraud. Organizations will need to look at new tools and processes for building better breach detection and response capabilities.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio