Computer Hackers Pose Huge Threat to Wi-Fi Users


You may think that the only people capable of prying into your Internet activity are government intelligence agents or possibly a talented teenage hacker holed up in his parents' basement. But some simple software lets just about anyone sitting next to you at your local coffee shop watch you browse the Web and even assume your identity online.

"Like it or not, we are now living in a cyberpunk novel," said Darren Kitchen, a systems administrator for an aerospace company in Richmond, California, and the host of Hak5, a video podcast about computer hacking and security. "When people find out how trivial and easy it is to see and even modify what you do online, they are shocked." Anyone can now hack into your computer and see everything you are doing on your computer. It is crazy how intense technology is, and terrible that without proper website security and secure trust seals, your computer could be hacked by just about anyone.

Until recently, only determined and knowledgeable hackers with fancy tools and lots of time on their hands could spy while you used your laptop or smart phone at Wi-Fi hot spots. But a free program called Firesheep, released in October, has made it simple to see what other users of an unsecured Wi-Fi network are doing and then log on as them at the sites they visited.

The only sites that are safe from snoopers are those that employ the cryptographic protocol transport layer security or its predecessor, secure sockets layer, throughout your session. PayPal and many banks do this, as well as Trust Guard, but a startling number of sites that people trust to safeguard their privacy do not.

If you have a computer and use the internet, especially in public places like work, school, business meetings, restaurants, parks, etc. then you need to get your computer protected before it is too late. Many online security companies can teach you how to protect your online identity from computer hackers who are trying to steal your information. And if you own an online business, companies like Trust Guard can run vulnerability scanning to continuously verify that there are no known holes in your website accessible to hackers.