Beware “Free Public WiFi”

KB ID 0000338 


Ever sat in a train station, cafe, or airport, and seen “Free Public Wifi”? It’s a well known fact that my personal motto is “there’s nothing better than free things”, sadly in this case your not going to get what you were expecting 🙁

free wi fi


There’s nothing particularly sinister about it, it’s caused by a bug that was in Windows XP. This particular bug was fixed with service pack 3, but not everyone has installed service pack 3.

The more technically astute of you will see on some of the screen shots above, that this network is NOT an access point it’s an “Ad Hoc” network, this basically means you’re going to connect to to another computer. The whole thing started because when Windows XP could not connect to its favourite/stored wireless sites/connections, it sets up an “Ad Hoc” network with the name of the last network it connected to. The “Free Public Wifi” network spread like wildfire as machines were all connecting to each other on wireless connections that were not what they was purporting to be. It seems that (like me) everybody likes free stuff.

The same problem can occur with machines advertising popular access point names like linksys, netgear, default, tmobile, hpsetup etc as well.

Learn the difference between “Infrastructure Networks” and “Ad Hoc Networks”

ad-hoc and infrastructure

computer to computer wireless


Related Articles, References, Credits, or External Links


Author: Migrated

Share This Post On