Feeds

Firesheep developer poohpoohs mitigation tools

Woolly thinking on cookie-jacker-slapping

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The developer of the Firesheep cookie-jacking plug-in has dismissed supposed easy-fix countermeasures as worse than useless.

Eric Butler released the Firefox extension last month in order to illustrate the risk posed by the failure of many sites to encrypt session cookies used to authenticate their users, even if they might run them through a secure server for the initial logon.

As a result, Firesheep can capture login credentials for sites such as Facebook and Twitter from open Wi-Fi networks. These captured cookies would then allow someone to log into a site and impersonate a user.

The basic problem has been well understood in security circles for months, but only reached a wider audience thanks to Firesheep, which makes the whole process of capturing credentials and logging into web services as an imposter as simple as waiting for someone on an open network to log into a vulnerable website before double-clicking on their profile picture.

Butler released the tool in order to highlight the need for vulnerable Web 2.0 sites to fully convert to SSL, something only Gmail applies at present. Facebook responded to the release of Firesheep by announcing (via Forbes here) plans to fully encrypt sessions, an upgrade already announced by Hotmail prior to the release of Firesheep.

Savvy web users can protect themselves in all cases by using a VPN connection or by using browser plug-ins that force secure connections, where supported by websites as an option.

In response to the release of Firesheep, various developers have come up with tools designed to mitigate the risk of attack.

For example, an extension called BlackSheep developed by security firm Zscaler warns users that someone on their local area network is using FireSheep, as explained in our earlier article here. Butler, however, cautions that the tool is not a reliable countermeasure and fails completely to address the underlying risk highlighted by Firesheep.

"An attacker can easily hide from 'Blacksheep' by VPNing themselves or by using another tool instead of Firesheep," Butler said. "This is not a solution."

Another tool, called FireShepherd (see?), attempts to thwart Firesheep by flooding the Wi-Fi network with junk, causing the plug-in to crash. Butler is even more dismissive of this tool, comparing it to an attempt to shout louder than a drunk friend who has decided to yell out his credit card number in a bar.

"While this may prevent some people from hearing the card number, it won’t stop everyone, and will most certainly upset everyone else at the bar even further," Butler argues.

"FireShepherd provides no real security and is harmful to Facebook’s servers and the local network which it is used on. Nobody should recommend using it for any reason."

The release of Firesheep, detected by some anti-virus firms as malware, has spurred an ethical debate. Butler responds to accusations that the release of the software was either illegal or at least unethical in a blog post here. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?