Last updated: February 17, 2011 - 10:13am
You may think the only people capable of snooping on 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, Calif., 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.” 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 smartphone 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. Without issuing any warnings of the possible threat, Web site administrators have since been scrambling to provide added protections.
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