Twitter and Amazon urged to move to HTTPS

28 Feb 2011
Secure access

US senator calls for major websites to beef up security to prevent Wi-Fi identity theft

A US senator has called on major website operators such as Amazon and Twitter to switch to a more secure protocol to prevent identify theft in places such as coffee shops.

The New York Democrat senator Charles Schumer told a news conference held at a Manhattan coffee shop that growing Wi-Fi access at such shops, restaurants and other businesses was helping hackers gain user information such as credit-card numbers and account passwords.

"The number of people who use Wi-Fi to access the internet in coffee shops, bookstores and beyond is growing by leaps and bounds," Schumer said.

Unsuspecting patrons using their computers in such public venues had made them easy prey for hackers and identity thieves, he said. "The quickest and easiest way to shut down this one-stop shop for identity theft is for major websites to switch to secure HTTPS web addresses instead of the less secure HTTP protocol," Schumer said.

He called the HTTP protocol "a welcome mat for would-be hackers."

Schumer said simple programs such as Firesheep had made accessing someone else's computer and private information through the unsecured HTTP extension relatively easy.

Schumer said many major website operators have been slow to address the HTTP security flaw, which he said has been well recognised since at least 2007.

He also released a letter to major website operators, none of which he said use HTTPS protocol as the default, asking them to make the change.

Amazon does deploy HTTPS when customers proceed to ordering items, but not on regular store pages.

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