Do you often work in cafes, airports, or other places where you use free or public wifi? Your computer is at risk! ProfHacker in the Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article on why using the campus VPN can protect you while using public wifi.
If you?re like the rest of the ProfHacker team and occasionally use a coffee shop as workspace (or even your public library), you will likely have had times when you connect your laptop, PDA, or iPod Touch to the public wifi that is offered in these locations. Even if you have a super smartphone, you might sometimes use the wifi since it will be faster than the 3G or 4G connection. Deep down, we probably all know that using public wifi might be risky, but most of us think that the chances of our information being stolen is low.
That might have been the case until October 24. That was the day that the Firesheep extension was released for the Firefox browser.* This simple add-on, which takes all of 15 seconds to install, ?allows you to,? in the words of Peter Shankman, ?see who?s connecting to various sites that don?t encrypt their HTTP login cookies, like Facebook, Evernote, Yahoo, Amazon, Dropbox, Gowalla, Twitter, WordPress, and others?.? (See also this detailed explanation of Firesheep on TechCrunch.) It?s always been possible to spy on people?s activity when they were using public wifi, as this May 2010 article by Cory Bohon (friend of ProfHacker and occasional guest author) points out. But while it?s been possible to spy on others? activity, Firesheep has made it ridiculously easy to do this. Not only does the add-on allow you to see people?s plain text passwords, but it allows you to login as this person by simply double-clicking on their information. Again, to quote Shankman, ?This isn?t kid stuff. This is REAL, and this is DANGEROUS.?
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