So you think that only a computer whiz can hack into your web connection and spy on you? Think again. My husband recently forwarded me a New York Times article ("New Hacking Tools Pose Bigger Threats to Wi-Fi Users"by Kate Murphy) that gave me goose bumps. I love my little netbook and wireless broadband access card that allows me to access the Internet just about anywhere. After reading the article, I am starting to wonder about how secure my "secured" wireless network connection really is.
There is a program that was released in the fall of 2010 which 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. That's the perfect breeding ground for identity theft, one of my hot buttons.
Ok, so you think you are safe because this program only works with unsecured Wi-Fi networks. While password protection makes it maybe a little bit more difficult to break in, thanks to widely available Wi-Fi cracking programs, recovering wireless router passwords can be achieved in a matter of seconds even by computer illiterate folks. The programs work by faking legitimate user activity to collect a series of so-called weak keys or clues to the password. The process is wholly automated.
What can we do to protect ourselves. Well, for starters, don't use unsecured Wi-Fi connections. However, as already mentioned, even password protected Wi-Fi networks are not as safe as we would like to believe. You only know you are shielded from prying eyes if a little lock appears in the corner of your browser or the Web address starts with "https" rather than "http." Although many websites will encrypt the password you enter to access the site, the browser's cookie, a code that identifies your computer, your settings on the site or other private information, is often not encrypted, which allows the programs to grab the cookie, giving unwelcome users access to your information and lets them be you on the sites nd have full access to your accounts. Most websites lack end-to-end encryption, meaning that your cookie info and other info you enter on the site is not protected. Website developers claim that encrypting all communication would slow down the site and would be a huge engineering expense. Not sure how much of a speed compromise we would have to suffer, but since the engineering expense seems to be a hurdle, we should not expect a satisfactory solution to this problem any time soon.
Unless we give up the convenience of the ubiquitous Internet access, we need to take other measures to protect ourselves. I would highly recommend suscribing to an identity theft protection plan. Don't wait until you have fallen victim to identity theft. Like with any protection plan, it excludes pre-existing conditions. To my knowledge, Prepaid Legal has the only identity theft plan that also includes identity restoration services, which means you are not left to your own demise when it comes to restoring your identity, which in most cases is a frustrating and very time consuming endeavor. At the ridiculously low monthly cost of as little as $9.95 we can't really afford not to have it. Like I said, identity theft is one of my hot buttons.