Logging in on sites at WiFi hotspots = bad idea

Posted on Monday, Aug 06 2007 @ 04:25 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Security firms warn that it's not a good idea to log into online e-mail, social networking or other sites at public WiFi hotspots. PC World reports:
It's not just those sites but any rich Web applications that exchange account information with users, including blogging sites such as Blogspot or even software-as-a-service offerings such as Salesforce.com, that could pose a risk for users, wrote Errata's Robert Graham, CEO, and David Maynor, chief technology officer, in a paper.

Most Web sites use encryption when passwords are entered, but because of the expense, the rest of the information exchanged between a browser and a Web site is not encrypted, they wrote in a paper presented at the Black Hat 2007 security conference in Las Vegas this week.

Using a packet sniffer, which can pick up data transferred between a wireless router and a computer, it's possible to collect cookie information while a user is accessing one of those sites over Wi-Fi.

Cookies consist of bits of data sent to a browser by a Web site to remember certain information about users, such as when they last logged in. Included in the cookie can be a "session identifier," which is another bit of unique information generated when people log into their accounts.

By collecting cookie information and the session identifier with the packer sniffer and importing it into another Web browser, the hacker can get inside a person's account. The attacker may not, however, be able to change a person's password, since many Web 2.0 applications require a second log-in to change account information.


About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.



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