Using Social Web Services Safely

That’s some pretty nice alliteration right there. I’m going to enjoy it for a second.

More and more folks on-line are using various social services and recently at a convention it was shown how it is trivially easy for someone with very little technical knowledge to compromise people who are doing this on the same network they are on. All it takes is installing a Firefox plugin called Firesheep. The plugin was designed just to show how easy it is to take advantage of the default methods people use to interact with web sites like Facebook and Twitter.

So what is one to do? Well, here is a list of steps that one can take to help make things safer. I recommend reading the article, but if you don’t want to, here are a couple highlights.

If you are going to use free wi-fi, also use a VPN. There are inexpensive services that anyone can use to do this, it will cost money but probably a lot less than one would lose if they lost their identity or other valuable information.

Connect to sites via an encrypted connection. For example, don’t go to http://facebook.com, instead go to https://facebook.com. That “s” in there makes a huge difference. There are Firefox extensions, like https-everywhere. It has a list of sites built in and will push you to a secure connection even if you try to go to the insecure site. If you don’t want to do that, just switch your favorite shortcut to these sites to the right address and get in the habit of looking at your browser to be sure you have a secure connection.

A while back Google started forcing all connections to their apps to use https, hopefully some of these other services will follow that lead soon. Ultimately they are the only ones who can really lock this stuff down.

Comic Catch Up

I read 4 web comics regularly. My travels kind of knocked me out of my routine and I got behind on a few. They have different schedules but almost all of them come out with new stuff on Fridays, so that’s a good day for reading them. And today, while catching up on those I’d missed, I see that Scott Kurtz created a pretty hilarious alternate ending for my most favorite Twilight Zone episode, Time Enough at Last. Clicking on this little version here will take you to the full size comic over at PvP.