Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

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.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/6/2020
Ripple20 Threatens Increasingly Connected Medical Devices
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/30/2020
DDoS Attacks Jump 542% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020
Dark Reading Staff 6/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15564
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.13.x, allowing Arm guest OS users to cause a hypervisor crash because of a missing alignment check in VCPUOP_register_vcpu_info. The hypercall VCPUOP_register_vcpu_info is used by a guest to register a shared region with the hypervisor. The region will be map...
CVE-2020-15565
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.13.x, allowing x86 Intel HVM guest OS users to cause a host OS denial of service or possibly gain privileges because of insufficient cache write-back under VT-d. When page tables are shared between IOMMU and CPU, changes to them require flushing of both TLBs....
CVE-2020-15566
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.13.x, allowing guest OS users to cause a host OS crash because of incorrect error handling in event-channel port allocation. The allocation of an event-channel port may fail for multiple reasons: (1) port is already in use, (2) the memory allocation failed, o...
CVE-2020-15567
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.13.x, allowing Intel guest OS users to gain privileges or cause a denial of service because of non-atomic modification of a live EPT PTE. When mapping guest EPT (nested paging) tables, Xen would in some circumstances use a series of non-atomic bitfield writes...
CVE-2020-15563
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.13.x, allowing x86 HVM guest OS users to cause a hypervisor crash. An inverted conditional in x86 HVM guests' dirty video RAM tracking code allows such guests to make Xen de-reference a pointer guaranteed to point at unmapped space. A malicious or buggy HVM g...