Sunday, July 11, 2021

Shared WiFi Limitations for Consumer Appliances

I was recently reminded of the unpleasant limitation of consumer appliances, such as Kindles or HomePods, on shared (public or semi-public) WiFi networks.

These shared networks typically don’t require a network password (WPA - WiFi Protection Access). Instead, these shared networks show up with the label, “Unsecured Network,” under the network name (SSID). The priority of these coffee shops and hotels is to limit access to the general public ahead of the security of hackers who are guests at their venue. It’s a better user experience, albeit less secure, for a hotel to authenticate by asking each guest to enter their last name and room number than it is to manage and promulgate a WiFi password like consumers do at home.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution for a venue guest other than to access the shared WiFi network using their own personal hotspot, if their appliance doesn’t have a Web browser. For guests of the venue, it’s very prudent to use their own VPN client to ensure their unencrypted network traffic is not being sniffed.

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