Logging into a website with a username and password doesn’t mean that your identity is secure. Yet, most people trust sites like Facebook and MySpace indefinitely. Sharing personal information and even credit card numbers through these sites is more than slightly dangerous. More often than not, websites that should be secure aren’t secure at all. This means that your account could be compromised at any minute.
A software developer named Eric Butler decided to do something about unsecure websites. His solution to this problem is a program called “Firesheep.” Firesheep is a Firefox application that was developed to point out just how unsecure the Facebook website really is. Once you hear what Firesheep can do, we hope that you’ll do everything within your power to protect your network.
Note: at the time of this writing, Firesheep was up and running. Our hope is that Firesheep will no longer be running within the near future. The reasons for this are listed below.
After you download Firesheep, you will notice a small box toward the right hand side of your Facebook screen (after you log into your account). Inside of that box you will see all of your Facebook contacts. By double-clicking on any user, you can log into their account. Yes, it’s really this easy.
In fact, that’s the point of Firesheep: to point out how easy it is for anyone to crack into your Facebook account. Butler warns people that all user connections must be entirely secure in order to avoid hacking, but even this won’t protect you from all hackers.
It is the responsibility of sites like Facebook to protect your identity. Yet, as many people have pointed out over the years, this is far from the case. Instead, many websites sell your personal details, and allow hackers to break into your accounts.
By using and spreading the word about Firesheep, people can inform sites like Facebook of their folly. In addition, this Firefox app should be a warning to all people who do not have secure networks. For a seasoned hacker, breaking into an unsecure network is a walk in the park. These hackers don’t even need a tool like Firesheep.
Protecting Against Firesheep
While an admirable feat and a great social comment, the thought of Firesheep is a scary one. If you want to prevent someone from hacking into your Facebook account, the most important thing that you can do is make sure your network is secure. Firesheep also works with nearly any social network (and some other sites).
Yet, Firesheep cannot work if your network is completely secure. In short, don’t use a public WiFi network unless you don’t care about being hacked. Since most people share personal details on Facebook, it’s vital that you use a secure network. Should you download and use Firesheep? Not really. Not unless you want to spy on other people. Still, the fact that Firesheep exists can be rather frightening. This fact will also make most people paranoid.