Browsing the Internet is never safe. From the BBS day to 3G phones, going online is always risky, but the benefits far overweight the risk, no one will stop using Internet due to some vague or obvious risks, no matter what.
Now here comes Firesheep, a firefox extension, when installed you can easily sniff around, as soon as anyone visits an insecure website known to it, their name and photo will be displayed. This tool makes all the people using public WIFI hot spot vulnerable and I guess people will refrain from using public access point. This whole thing sounds scary but it’s just because you can see it and try it, the fact is your Internet activity is being monitored by huge number of interest parties all the time, some legally and some illegally, with the release of Firesheep, the only thing changed is that you can monitor other people’s activity with ease and even steal someone’s online identity easily.
People may get worried about their online financial security. In reality, you shouldn’t be worried, even the worst online financial service will have encryption turned on all the time, there is no chance that simple LAN sniffing can break that kind of encryption. But we still need to protect ourselves from prying eyes, even we’re just visiting non critical websites such as webmail, maybe for now we will have to avoid using any public accessible access point. Maybe it’s time for facebook, twitter or similar websites to think about online security, for themselves as well as for their users.
When we see the big trucks on the highway we know the load on the truck has be secured by tie downs and inspected by DOT, but when we see a website on the Internet we don’t know it’s safe or not, of course almost all websites claim that they are secure, but we have no way to prove it or disprove it until something serious happens. There are a few security scan services which scan the target websites frequently to make sure those sites are sfae against known vulnerabilities, when you see the websites have the banner says it’s secured by third party you probably can trust those sites more than others without the banner, at least those sites care about their own security as well as their customer’s.
How do we protect ourselves? The easy way is to use your brain, in another word, you will have to learn to protect yourself, you will have to learn to make educated choice, not just follow other people, for example, most people use Windows and Mac, but you have the choice to use the nost secure and versatile system, Linux, when you know what you’re doing, you’re immune to most online problems.