New York Senator Charles Schumer has issued a call to arms today to the largest sites on the internet, including Twitter, Yahoo, and Amazon, urging them to stop using the HTTP web protocol in favor of HTTPS, “after reports that hackers are granted easy access to users’ private information through common wireless networks found at coffee houses and book stores throughout New York and the country.” Over the weekend, Schumer gave a lesson to tech-ignorant reporters by allowing a member of his staff to break into another colleagues Twitter account while they were on the same WIFi network at a coffee shop. No one is safe, Sen. Schumer insists.
While HTTP allows even untalented hackers access to other people’s online identities with the help of programs like Firesheep, HTTPS is more secure. Schumer explained it all in a letter to “[Provider of Major Website].” The press release reads, in part:
“The number of people who use WiFi to access the Internet in coffee shops, bookstores and beyond is growing by leaps and bounds, but these users are unaware that they are easy prey for hackers and identity thieves. It is scary how easy it is. Free WiFi networks provide hackers, identity thieves and spammers alike with a smorgasbord of opportunities to steal private user information like passwords, usernames, and credit card information,” said Schumer.
The full release and letter can be read here (h/t Gothamist). And for reference as to how far we’ve come, remember that Bill Clinton sent only two emails as president and John McCain, once (or twice!) almost in charge of this country, is barely “aware” of the internet at all.