What Is a Captive Portal?
A captive portal (also known as Wi-Fi login page) allows network administrators to block Internet access for users until they complete a defined process. When using a public Wi-Fi with a captive portal, you are required to accept some Terms and Conditions or log in before accessing the Internet.
If you’re connecting to the Internet from airports, train stations, buses or other public places, chances are you are familiar with captive portals. It’s that splash screen is usually being brought up for you before connecting to the Internet.
Captive Portals and VPNs: Free Internet, with a Catch!
When you’re out and there’s a free WiFi, you can always connect to it. But, as you know, using public Wi-Fi can be a risky thing, especially if you’re doing business activities on it. When a public Wi-Fi uses a captive portal (a “login” page), the security risks you’re exposed to can be higher. That’s because captive portals don’t work seamlessly with VPNs. You always have to disconnect your VPN, access the Wi-Fi login page and then turn on your VPN again. Leaving aside the manual steps you have to do, whenever the VPN is off while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, you may be exposed to:
- Malware installation – a hacker can inject a code snippet in your device to infect it with malware. From criminals wanting to intercept your data to malware generators that can install anything from a keylogger to ransomware in your device, there are several risks on these free networks.
- Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack – the hacker sits between the user and the server and reads everything that’s being transmitted. This is like eavesdropping where a third person can see all your activities without you knowing about his presence.
- Snooping / sniffing – again, a hacker can eavesdrop on your connection. However, it’s different than an MITM attack since the attacker doesn’t sit in the middle. Instead, they use special devices and software to snoop on the conversation.
- Malicious Wi-Fi networks – while there are chances that a hacker might have hacked the Wi-Fi of your local café, there can also be instances that Wi-Fi is set up by a hacker. These honeypot Wi-Fi connections are generally named similar to local cafés or airports so unsuspecting customers will connect to them.
How to Stay Safe While on a Captive Portal Connection
The best way to keep your information safe while accessing a public Wi-Fi is by using a VPN. A VPN encrypts your data so if there is someone monitoring the network, they won’t be able to read the information you’re sending.
Here are a number of ways in which you can minimize public Wi-Fi security risks.
- Use a VPN
- Don’t allow your device to auto-connect to open Wi-Fi networks
- Don’t access http websites. Only access https websites as they are more secure
- Log out of all account once you’re done using them
As discussed earlier, the best way to stay safe on public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN so your traffic gets encrypted. However, there are two problems with most VPNs:
- they have to be disconnected while accessing the captive portals (Wi-Fi login pages), otherwise those won’t work.
- most VPNs make the connection slower. And since public Wi-Fi networks are generally pretty slow, using a VPN with them becomes difficult.
Make Your Life Easier when Connecting Networks with Captive Portals: Use Speedify!
Speedify is unlike other VPNs. It is a bonding VPN that uses channel bonding technology to combine multiple Internet connections at once. This means that instead of slowing down your connection, as other VPNs do, it will make it faster and more reliable.
Unlike all the other VPN services available, Speedify can make the difference between a direct Internet connection and one that requires a login page. When you join a WiFi hotspot with a captive portal, you don’t have to disconnect Speedify to leave you exposed:
- Speedify will show you a notification asking you if you want to login.
- In the meantime, your other ongoing online activities (like Skype / Slack calls, streaming, gaming) will continue to work via the cellular connection, protected by Speedify
- If you click the notification (or the message in the app), Speedify will pop up the login screen in a window.
- After you login successfully, Speedify will immediately start using the WiFi connection.
Apart from the channel bonding services, Speedify also encrypts your data and redirects it through one of its speed servers so you stay secure and anonymous online.
Want to use a VPN on public Wi-Fi with captive portals, but need to be 100% protected against security risks and slow speeds? Get Speedify!