What are all those WiFi hotspots, anyway?


I am sitting here at George Bush International Airport in Houston having a cup of coffee and doing a little online work.  Flash (Samsung Q1 SSD) is happily working away while connected to the Portable Power Station so he’ll be fully charged for the flight where I intend to watch the movie Flightplan I downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.  I am connected through my phone, tethered via USB and the speed is pretty darn good.  Before I connected via EV-DO of course I tried to find an open WiFi hotspot and to my surprise there were five wireless networks and only one of them was secured.  You’d think that with four open wireless networks I’d have no trouble getting online, wouldn’t you?  Nope.  Of the four networks that were unsecured one was a pay network through Sprint and thus inaccessible to me.  The three remaining networks were all there with good signal strength but not a single one of them were actual gateways to the Internet.  What are all of these networks, anyway?  I am happy with my EV-DO connection but WiFi sure would be easier and faster too.  The airport is not the only place I’ve seen apparently good WiFi hotspots that in reality lead to nowhere.  Anybody have any theories as to what these might be?


Mike Cane

If it says linksys or Netgear, I don’t bother. Can never connect with the 770.

Code E

Where I work we have 3 secure connections using a cisco aray, but we also have 7 honey pots. If you set your wifi card to scan you see over 30 hotspots


I suspect that all of your answers are correct for some of the hotspots. They always seem to have one NETGEAR and one LINKSYS router, too. :)

Mike Cane

I get that all the time with the 770. My favorite is hpsetup — WTF?! Is that for like a WiFi printer or print server? Never gets me anywhere, anyway.

Mike W

Just like to make a note on Steve’s (isbeller) comment above. If you are planning a wireless network Always use encryption as well.

It’s only the work of about 5 minutes in Linux to use a sniffer (which in Linux can be set to grab packets not addressed to your MAC addr.) to find a valid one, then spoof it.

So now random guy has access to your network with no real traceable footprint, and ANYONE can see all the info traffic.

Mike W

Philip Ferris

My guess, from similar (though far fewer) at bristol airport is that they are purely networking local computers between offices in the airport – much easier than having to lay cable.


The other option (depending on your WiFi setup) is you are seeing other users’ PCs that have their WiFi turned on. Obviously, these would not be gateways to the “series of tubes” either.


I haven’t been to GB Airport yet but at Seattle Tacoma I get 1.2Mbps via my Samsung ZX20 and Cingular’s HSDPA network.

WiFi hot spots are rapidly becoming irrelevant to me, so long as Cingular can keep their network servers running that is…


These networks may also be using a MAC access control list that allows them to not have to deal with encryption keys but only allows specific MAC addresses to access the network.


Jan Peter

Hi JK,
It might be that those networks have a proxy server installed. Since you, as uninvited guest, don’t know what machine acts as a proxy you can’t instruct your browser which proxy to use. Therefore all your http request are shot into the local network instead of to the internet.

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