BLACK HAT - Researchers: Web apps over Wi-Fi puts data at risk

Users who access Google's Gmail or the Facebook social-networking site over Wi-Fi could put their account at special risk of being hijacked.

Users who access Google's Gmail or the Facebook social-networking site over Wi-Fi could put their accounts at risk of being hijacked, according to research from Errata Security, a computer security company.

It's not just those sites but any rich Web applications that exchange account information with users, including blogging sites such as Blogspot or even software-as-a-service offerings such as Salesforce.com, that could pose a risk for users, wrote Errata's Robert Graham, CEO, and David Maynor, chief technology officer, in a paper.

Most Web sites use encryption when passwords are entered, but because of the expense, the rest of the information exchanged between a browser and a Web site is not encrypted, they wrote in a paper presented at the Black Hat 2007 security conference in Las Vegas this week.

Using a packet sniffer, which can pick up data transferred between a wireless router and a computer, it's possible to collect cookie information while a user is accessing one of those sites over Wi-Fi.

Cookies consist of bits of data sent to a browser by a Web site to remember certain information about users, such as when they last logged in. Included in the cookie can be a "session identifier," which is another bit of unique information generated when people log into their accounts.

By collecting cookie information and the session identifier with the packer sniffer and importing it into another Web browser, the hacker can get inside a person's account. The attacker may not, however, be able to change a person's password, since many Web 2.0 applications require a second log-in to change account information.

Nonetheless, it could allow a hacker to create blog postings, read e-mail or do other malicious activity. Meanwhile, the victim is directed to a version of the Web page they intended to visit, which Errata calls "sidejacking."

There is a remedy, however. "The consequence of this is that users should never use a Wi-Fi hotspot unless they are using VPN (virtual private networking) or SSL (secure sockets layer) to access their accounts," they wrote.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?