How safe is airport WI-FI?

Eric Butler, Security expert
Date:9 January 2013 Tags:, ,

by Rachel Z Arndt

In 2010, Eric Butler developed Firesheep, a Firefox extension that allowed anyone on a public network to access Web sites – including e-mail and Facebook – visited by anyone else on that network, to demonstrate just how vulnerable public networks are. Firefox has since patched the vulnerabilities exploited by Butler’s program, but we contacted him to find out how to protect ourselves from prying programs such as his.

“People should really avoid any service that requires them to log in unless that Web site is 100 per cent secure,” Butler says. “Anybody nearby can pretty much watch what you’re doing unless the Web site is secure” (its URL will start with https, not http). Even then, information such as bank accounts and passwords may not be completely hidden from prying eyes. So, for extra protection, Butler recommends using a virtual private network such as Cloak.

“A VPN essentially moves the problem to someone else,” he says. “It encrypts everything I’m doing from where I am all the way to wherever the VPN is running, which is somewhere in the cloud.”

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