Schumer urges Web providers to boost security

February 28, 2011 3:53:42 AM PST
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York says major websites should speed the move to more secure web addresses to protect users from stealing personal data at public WiFi hot spots such as coffee houses and bookstores.

"This major security flaw in popular websites is like leaving the keys to your house in the front door," Schumer said.

The key to safer surfing is using URL's beginning with "https," rather than the traditional "http." Some websites offer the more secure URL, but the user has to adjust the settings.

A secure site also carries a small padlock icon.

Schumer says hackers have stolen personal information and, after slipping into a recently used web page, pose as the victim. The result can be purchases and bogus postings.

At Birch Coffee Shop in Murray Hill, he explained computer hackers have easy pickings on unsecured wireless networks at coffee houses, bookstores, and beyond.

"What many people don't know is that because of security flaws on dozens upon dozens of the biggest and most popular websites like Twitter, Amazon or Yahoo. Hackers can use wireless hotspots like this one as a gateway to some of your most private information," Sen. Schumer said.

That includes users names, passwords, browsing history and even credit card numbers.

And it doesn't take a computer expert to do it.

Easy to use programs like Firesheep turn an amateur into an accomplished hacker.

The result: unauthorized purchases and bogus postings.

Sen. Schumer is asking popular websites to use URL's beginning with https instead of the traditional http making it safer to surf.

Some argue that change may slow down your internet service.

And it requires some financial investment on the part of the websites.

But Sen. Schumer believes it's a small price to pay to keep you safe while you surf.