Since its announcement at a hacker conference called ToorCon two weeks ago, the Firefox extension Firesheep has been downloaded over half a million times (613,000 as of this article’s publication). The extension allows users to simply and easily access unsecured information sent on a network shared with other users — so Facebook logins used at a Wi-Fi hotspot are at risk, while bank accounts aren’t. The security hole that the tool exploits has basically always been around (most sites don’t bother to exclusively use the HTTPS protocol, unlike your online bank), and Firesheep’s designer, Eric Butler, points out that these sites have an obligation to protect their users’ privacy. Firesheep is his way of forcing everyone’s hand.
As of now, there are a few work-arounds to trump Firesheep (like Force-TLS, which forces some sites to use HTTPS), but some login information will probably still be at risk until the sites themselves all make at least some changes, which will probably be more resource-intensive, and which most sites are not too thrilled about. Until then, the opportunity to check up on the private life of your girlfriend will continue to present itself, and lots of guys will undoubtedly be tempted to do so. This idea is even worse than it sounds.
Snooping won’t fix your trust issues
It goes without saying that any worthwhile relationship should be based on trust and compatibility. The fact that people aren’t up front with one another in the first place is part of why so many marriages end in divorce; both parties eventually just get tired of the facade. Slightly less obvious — at least if you’re actually tempted to do a little bit of spying — is that what you’re doing will never allay your suspicions.
If you’re already suspicious about her relationship with a past ex or a close male friend, then there are already trust issues here. No lack of flirty messages will convince you not to worry if you’re already worried. The only possible outcomes are that you do find evidence of something — and if you honestly think that’s possible, then you already have a problem — or that you find totally benign messages that you misinterpret out of paranoia, which is not exactly far-fetched if you’re surreptitiously rifling through your girlfriend’s messages anyway.
You’ll be “that guy”
Quick, what’s the first image that comes to mind when you picture using Firesheep to spy on a woman?
You’re willingly being that guy if you consider Firesheep (or anything like it) a viable solution to your problems, and nobody respects that guy. It doesn’t matter how good your justifications are; at the end of the day, you’re making the decision to be shady and insecure. Even if nobody else knows how you chose to confront your trust issues, you’ll know, and you’ll feel diminished for having not held yourself to a higher standard. Besides, do you really have a serious, identifiable concern about your girlfriend that you think sneakiness can solve, or are you just engaging in the very normal, very human, but exceedingly childish desire to know someone else’s business?
AskMen’s discussion of the Firesheep effect continues next… Next Page