Orb: Great if you don’t like your privacy

Posted: January 16, 2010 in hardware, iphone, Mac OSX, technology, Windows
Tags: , , , ,

We were over at my niece’s house and talking with her husband, got into a discussion about getting movies onto the Wii which led to discussing Opera on the Wii, and then ORB (www.orb.com) on a windows box streaming the movies to the Wii – and anyone else you wanted to share them with.  The trouble is, the amount of info you are sharing may not be limited to what you intended to share, or thought you were keeping unshared as it were.

The process is pretty simple, you need the browser Opera installed on your Wii (its in the marketplace, a free download).  Once there you can browse to any site on the internet, well, as well as can be expected when trying to type by pointing a shaky hand at an on-screen keyboard one letter at a time.  Once that is in place, you can set up ORB and with a username and password you will be able to use the web interface to see shared files.

You set up ORB on your PC (when i say PC i mean personal computer running windows or mac) to allow certain folders to be shared, for instance, your music and videos (see first pic below).  Then anyone logging onto your ORB server (for lack of a better word) fills in their password and they have access to what you are want shared.  Its pretty good really – the speeds i was seeing over a wireless connection to my iPhone were good enough you could watch a movie and enjoy it without a lot of buffering issues.  No so much with the Wii unfortunately.  It was a bit too low-res to really make it watchable.  Sorta looked like a dub of a dub of a dub of a videotape if you know what i mean.

It was watchable if you were just wanting to get the essence of the movie so to speak, but not the same quality you would get via other network options such as streaming directly to your TV via your internal network.  The way ORB works is it allows you to see your files over the internet – not just your network. So you can be at a friends house, at work, or in a local wi-fi enabled coffee shop, and still have access to your files, movies, music, etc.  Sounds remarkable in theory.  The glitch i came across was that while you set up what folders or files to share, you have also opened up your computer to “file browsing” through the entire directories on your PC regardless of permission settings.

Sure, you are protected by a password and username to get into your system, but once you have that (and we all know, some passwords and usernames are easily guessed or discovered) then you are able to “drill” down into the very core areas of the PC that has the ORB server installed on it by simply clicking on File Browser at the top of the screen (see second pic).  Using my iPhone and the free ORB app I was able to go into the USER folder, into individual users, and their subfolders completely down to the hidden system settings and files.  You may not be able to open the files, but say for instance you had a file named “nakedme.jpg” or “mypasswords.doc” it would be there for all with the password to see.

Maybe you don’t mind having all your files and folders on display for all to see, but it seems like a permissions problem to me, one that needs to be addressed, since Windows itself will not let you “drill” down into the users folders when using another computer on the same network, and yet here ORB is bypassing all that security and letting you see everything.

ORB is a great idea and if they updated it to ensure it adhered to the permission settings and security in windows, then it might warrant another look see, but for now its too open and too accessible whether or not you have files to hide, your privacy is being invaded.  Needless to say, my niece’s husband uninstalled the program that very night.



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