NORMAN — Where does your email go, and who reads it?
Last week, we looked at what happens behind the scenes when you sign in to an Internet-based account, whether email, banking, shopping, etc.
To summarize, your username and password fly across the Internet in the blink of an eye, knock on the door of your provider and say, “Here I am. Here is my password. Let me in.”
What are not so apparent are the multiple places your username and password, aka “credentials,” visit and must pass through on the way to their ultimate destination. Many people think this information goes straight from their computer to their email provider, or wherever it’s supposed to go. Au contraire mon frère.
Take, for example, Yahoo email. Millions of people use Yahoo Webmail, which means they visit the Yahoo website to do email. They visit the Yahoo website and click the “Sign In” button. They are then sent to a different website page, which contains the actual sign in box.
Sometimes, their browser automatically enters their credentials into the Yahoo ID and Password boxes; otherwise, that information is typed in manually. Finally, the big “Sign In” button is clicked. What happens next? Where do the credentials go?
If you use a home network and if your computer connects to a wireless router, then the first place your credentials go is out into the air. Your computer is a radio transmitter, and radio signals are broadcast from your computer to anyone within range of the signal.
Your credentials, transformed and broken up into numerous tiny packets of information, are part of this signal and, if not properly protected, can be intercepted and stolen.
The next part of the journey is from your router, down the wire, out the house, up to the utility pole, down more wires across town to wherever your Internet Service Provider’s “headquarters” are located.