Sen. Charles Schumer. (Sept. 27, 2010)

Sen. Charles Schumer. (Sept. 27, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

ALBANY, N.Y. — Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said Sunday that major websites should speed the move to more secure web addresses that help protect users from having personal data stolen at public Wi-Fi hot spots such as coffee houses and bookstores.

The key to safer web surfing is to use a web address — or URL — beginning with "https," rather than the more common "http." Some websites already offer the more secure URL, but the user has to adjust the settings. A secure site also carries a small padlock icon.

Schumer says hackers have stolen personal information to impersonate the victim and make purchases or post bogus messages.

"It is scary how easy it is," Schumer said. He called the http protocol "a welcome mat for would-be hackers."

Schumer is announcing Sunday that he will contact specific major websites.

Some Internet security experts believe this is may have been how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s fan page was recently hacked, which resulted in a fake posting critical of the social networking powerhouse.

Hacking has become easier and more comment with new programs that require little or no programming expertise, Schumer said.

"With the privilege of serving millions of U.S. citizens, providers of major websites have a responsibility to protect individuals who use their sites and submit private information," Schumer said.

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