Social media


There’s a lot of buzz about Firesheep, heck it even made The Mercury. So high time I covered it.

Basically this is a consumer hacking tool that anyone can use. One click and it lets you into someone else’s Facebook page! You start it up, it shows you a list of all the Facebook users near you (even has their photos) and you click on anyone to hijack them - easy.

The technique is not new. What is new is that it is a simple plug-in for Firefox and anyone who can click a mouse can use it with no special skill or knowledge.

What Firesheep does is to intercept the non-secure cookies that Facebook (and Twitter, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Myspace, Flickr and many more) use and then hijack the session. This lets you into the web site logged in as the other person. Its as if they walked away from their computer without locking it and you sat down. Anything they are logged into, you are in too!

Now, it doesn’t tell you their password, so you can’t go changing it to lock the victim out. But you can change their privacy settings, post embarrassing photos, articles and the likes. Or just snoop.

And remember this isn’t just Facebook, it is a lot of web sites.

What’s the catch? You do need to be on the same network and on a hub not a switch. But any open (or WEP) wifi meets this criteria. Many home networks have hubs and some older business networks. The IT people may even have installed a hub just to monitor network traffic.

What’s not vulnerable? Switched networks and WPA encrypted networks. These isolate each user’s traffic by design so the non-encoded cookies don’t pass by every user like they do on a hub network.

Bottom line, if you are on open wifi at a coffee shop, airport etc, you CAN be snooped on very easily. It is not just hackers anymore, the general public can do this too. If you have wifi in your home or business, you absolutely need to read up on wifi security and understand the basics. You've been given a chainsaw and it is vital you read the instruction manual before attempting to use it or you might get hurt.

Why is it a Firefox plug-in? No, its not a security flaw in Firefox that is being exploited here, its really bad design in web sites like Facebook. They are the ones sending your confidential data around with no encryption. Firefox provides a cross platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, Android) way of distributing this hacking tool. It could have been written in Java or any other language, the author just wrote it in Firefox. Like I said upfront, this is nothing new. Just re-packaged for the masses to use.

Expect chaos.

Since writing this, Facebook now allows you to keep your connection secure ( but I notice that some FB apps and web pages switch you back to non-secure. FB hasn't quite got it right. You should select "Browse Facebook on a secure connection" under my account, settings, account security.

Media Diet

I've blogged about several diets it seems; Microsoft Diet, Atkins Diet... But a media diet is something else.

It seems I am in a constant state of stimulation, and I'm not talking about THAT kind of stimulation. With newspapers, TV, news on the Internet, blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts and the likes, I am bombarded with information all day long. And that's before I get to work! At work, there are constant interruptions, email (fracking heck I HATE email!), jobs, and the constant pull of fifty million things to do and no time to do them. It seems I get pulled off one thing before I can finish it and onto another. Nothing ever gets done properly.

I call this The Whirlpool. It had to have a name and that was the best I could come up with.

Sometimes I think I am winning the battle, The Whirlpool is in retreat and life isn't so hectic. But lately it has staged a come back. It is certainly in a winning position now.

So how to battle? Well start with limiting the stimulation. Cut out news, stop reading RSS, stop Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader and triage the email into "absolutely important, I have to respond to this" and "delete" (everything else).

When Merlin Mann's book comes out, I will be on the waiting list. Certainly "Inbox Zero" is where I need to be. But for the rest of the barrage, I think a little self-discipline will be enough. I gave up newspapers over a decade ago. Just stopped buying them. Well, I do buy the Sunday Tasmanian just for the TV guide. But lately I have caught myself reading the rest of it. It seemed a shame to burn it unread. But, heck, I need the fire starter. The wood fired pizza oven needs paper. That's what that publication is for. The TV guide comes out, and the rest goes in the "burning box".

Then there's TV news and so called current affairs. Just plain say NO! These programs are the pits. They are full of sound-bite journalism and sensationalism for the sake of ratings. Between Today Tonight, A Current Affair and whatever the other one is, they are worse than John Laws! Absolutely designed to get my blood pressure up. But they are also incredibly addictive. Watch just one second and you want to keep watching. They must be avoided completely. I feel like an alcoholic holding a bottle of gin. Resist, resist.

Now to my blog habit. I'm not sure I can do this. I am pretty choosy about what I read. I like Victor, Rita, Steven and the rest of the Hobart foodie circle. I like Andy, I like Leo and I love Macworld and Mac Rumours. Can I kick this habit? I have to.

That leaves me with podcasts. I have been very ruthless lately. Try new ones, they get one episode to hook me, then I hit "unsubscribe" and "delete" and they are wiped. I fell like a wave of "get this crap off my computer" madness comes over me, but they go.

I hang on to my comfort food. The Chillcast, I just can't give this one up. I rationalise that Anji is good for my soul. All that laid back music helps me drift off. It can't be bad, can it?

So my media diet begins.

Next to my work environment. I'm going to change offices. The concept of being in the open-plan section overlooking all my team is a good one, but it just plain doesn't work. Firstly I have no privacy. Secondly my staff feel free to interrupt me every 45 seconds. It just doesn't work. So under guise of "I have to shut the door for security and privacy reasons" I'm going to shut the bloody door. Let's see how that goes.

I just downloaded an e-book called "Zen Habits - Handbook for Life" which is all about simplifying your workspace and stripping down the clutter. Seems like its worth a try. But, oh bugger, I just took on another new "media", did I just break my diet?