Oct 272010
Authors: Ryan Gibbons and Glen Pfeiffer

The Internet and blogosphere were abuzz earlier this week over a new Firefox plug-in that can steal login information from unsecure websites (including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter).

It’s designed to be easy to use­­ –– just install the plug-in, hit search and it tracks other computers on the local network and comes up with a notification when they, say, log in to Facebook, and then gives you the option to access their profile as if you were logged in as well.

We tested the plug-in on Monday at our apartment to see if the two of us and our other roommate could get on each other’s Facebooks, but came to the conclusion after talking with others that it will only work on unsecured networks. Of course, our local network is password protected, as is almost every network in the vicinity of our dwelling.

Back in the day, which is to mean earlier this decade, most of us were probably used to having free Internet access in any residential neighborhood in American suburbia, courtesy of unsecured wireless networks.

In those times, relatively few people had the know-how to steal sensitive information from those unsecured networks. With the advent of this plug-in, the average Firefox user could be one of these people.

So what have we learned? Nothing yet –– we should have all learned by now to secure our wireless networks. The moral of this new story is to be careful logging in to unsecure websites like Facebook on unsecured public networks because someone running Firefox might be lurking. (Yes, lurking, like pedobear at a circus).

We are definitely going to be more wary logging in to Facebook at a Starbucks or the municipal Wi-fi.

We aren’t saying these aren’t secure, but we don’t know if they are we’d have to do research. What do we look like, journalists? The tagline at the bottom says columnists, which we take to mean we can write whatever the editors let us get away with.

You may be wondering why this plug-in exists in the first place. The answer is one you commonly hear from ethically-questionable hackers: “I wanted to expose the huge gap in security.” That’s very noble and all, but we all know they are secretly smiling on the inside about the chaos they’ve created in the meantime.

We think the fact that this has made national headlines will definitely help in convincing sites like Facebook to secure pages of their site other than the login, because obviously, consumer protection is paramount in cyberspace.

Now, on to lighter news.

Since we have 169 words left (hats off to Design Editor Alexandra Sieh), we’d like to commemorate the death of someone near and dear to our hearts. While not inherently related to our tech genre, this international figure of importance probably wouldn’t have gotten so famous without the Internet, so we’ll count him.

Sadly, Paul the Octopus passed this week. We’d like to have a line of silence in this column. Alex, could you oblige? You can count the blank space as 15 words.

For those who don’t know, Paul correctly predicted the outcome of all 7 of Germany’s World Cup soccer games, including the country’s loss in the final, by selecting food for the day, which was adorned with either a German or the upcoming opponent’s flag. No foul play is suspected as of yet, but Germany, we have our eyes on you!

Columnists Ryan Gibbons and Glen Pfeiffer are headed home to see if there are any unsecured wireless connections in range. Send comments and questions to verve@collegian.com.

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