What Is a Wi-Fi Access Portal (Captive Portal)?
A Wi-Fi access portal, also known as captive portal, is a welcome web page shown to the users connecting to a Wi-Fi network. They must accept the terms and conditions or log in before being able to access the Internet. Wi-Fi access portals are typically used by business centers, airports, hotel lobbies, coffee shops, and other venues that offer free Wi-Fi hotspots for users.
Simple Wi-Fi captive portals force you to at least read a user policy page, and then click on a button to agree to the terms of the policy. This may help the owner or the provider of the network to get out of any trouble if it turns out you were up to no good while logged on. Other WiFi access portals require you to enter an ID and password before accessing the Internet. These are usually used in hotels.
All good in theory, right? Unfortunately, these Wi-Fi access portals can generate serious security risks – keep reading.
Common Issues with Wi-Fi Access Portals
A Wi-Fi access portal solves many problems when it comes to regulation, but can generate others. The most common issue is when the Wi-Fi access page doesn’t show up. If you are having this issue, take a look at our cheat sheet here.
A bigger problem is online security and privacy. When you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, your device is exchanging data, syncing your emails, social media accounts and other profiles. But what if somebody intercepts that traffic and gets a hold of your credit card numbers, social media password, confidential emails and messages, and browsing history?
Online privacy is an easy thing to achieve with a VPN. Already using one? You may have noticed that you can’t connect to a network that is using a Wi-Fi access portal while you are connected to the VPN. In some cases you can connect to the VPN after you log into the WiFi access portal, but in most cases VPNs won’t work at all.
Why can’t a regular VPN protect you on a Wi-Fi access portal network? Let’s find out!
VPNs and Wi-Fi Access Portals: What Happens in the Background
When joining a Wi-Fi network that runs a captive portal, the router will assign you a specific IP address from a range that is accepted. But since you are using a VPN to mask your IP address and protect your private data, the login page will see the VPN server’s IP address and not the one assigned by the hotspot / router. Therefore, you won’t be able to connect to the network. Sadly, since there is no way to bypass WiFi login page with a VPN, you will either have to give up your privacy or not connect to the network at all.
Or you can use Speedify as your VPN to stay both connected and protected on Wi-Fi networks with access portals.
How Speedify Bonding VPN Works on Wi-Fi Captive Portals
When you join a Wi-Fi hotspot with a login page, Speedify will:
- Show you a notification asking you if you want to login.
- Keep you connected over cellular data so your other ongoing online activities (like Skype / Slack calls, streaming, gaming) will continue to work via the cellular connection, protected by Speedify so you don’t have to worry about dropped calls or streams.
- If you click the notification prompting you to connect to the WiFi hotspot, Speedify will pop up the login screen in a window.
- Once you login successfully, Speedify will immediately start using the WiFi connection, allowing you to seamlessly switch over from cellular to WiFi without stopping any of the things you are doing online.
Speedify uses channel bonding technology in order to bond multiple Internet connections at once. In the example above, it uses both WiFi and cellular connections on your smartphone or laptop.
Now you can finally connect to any hotspot and not worry about your data and privacy.