Why do I need Captive Portal for my Free Wi-Fi?

AttreLogix Networks

Why do I need Captive Portal for my Free Wi-Fi?

Have you used a public Wi-Fi network in a mamak stall, restaurant or cafe recently? If you have, you might have seen a login page we in the Wi-Fi space called a “captive portal” page. It looks like a standard web page and most people click through the login process without thinking too much about it. But there are some important things captive portal pages do that you (as a Wi-Fi network owner) need to understand if you’re the one offering free Wi-Fi to your guest.

Wi-Fi Captive Portal

Many times retail outlets, small businesses or even restaurants will provide their guests with free Wi-Fi access without using a captive portal solution. This can have many negative consequences for both your guests and your business. From legal issues to your bottom-line, implementing a captive portal will become an integral part of your overall business strategy.

As the industry veteran backed by experts in this space for more than a decade, we would like to highlight three important reasons your free Wi-Fi needs to include a captive portal.

The legal perspective…

Most free Wi-Fi at public venue are “Open Access” which means there is no encryption over the air, the information user is sending over the Wi-Fi network is not secure. That may seem logical and you don’t have to tell the user not to send their credit card information over your Wi-Fi or share any private personal information online, but (by law) you do have to say that. You should require the user to tick a box that says they understand that you aren’t liable if they do something like sending their credit card information to a phishing website.

You know that the internet isn’t private right? The reality is, that when you buy internet access from a provider, they in-turn give you an IP Address. That it works just like a physical address to identify the location of where something is happening. If someone is pirating music or torrenting movies through your Wi-Fi, the companies looking to sue look for the “Source IP”, meaning they have the potential to track it to your location. We’ve actually been on college campuses when the IT Director is dealing with a threatening letter from the music industry. It can get nasty and you don’t want to be involved.

Captive Portals lets you include your rules into the terms of use policy, and force your guests to accept it. That will help you limit your liability for all of that bad stuff highlighted above. To take the protect a step further, you may want to consider deploying web filtering or application filtering devices where our expertise could come in handy to help you.

The business perspestive…

One of the easiest ways hackers are stealing data today, is by posing as a legitimate Wi-Fi network. Once one of your guests connect to it, the hacker has an easy way to grab their info including privacy details. So, if your business is a retail shop or a public venue providing free Wi-Fi access for your patrons, your Wi-Fi network should be properly identified to your guests so they can avoid logging on to any potential fakes. It’s important to be aware of someone setting up a wireless network nearby and calling it something similar to yours.

The next time you’re at a cafe in the local vicinity, look for the available Wi-Fi networks in the area, chances are you’ve got someone close by looking to steal your data.

In fact, if you’re going through the hassle of providing free Wi-Fi, you might as well let your guest know you did. So throw up a page that has your logo, community updates and maybe even an offer for something that helps you better promote your business and connect with your customers, ask them to connect with you on social media like Facebook or Linkedin. These are all fantastic things for your business and can really make the cost of a free guest Wi-Fi network worth it.

The User Experience…

Captive portals not only can provide you and your customers a safe and enjoyable Wi-Fi experience, they can also provide you with valuable insights that you can then use to improve your services and products to ultimately create a better user experience.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by allowing your guests to use their social media login on your captive portal to gain access to your Wi-Fi. In exchange for this option your guests will be authorising you to have access to a variety of social data analytics. For example, if someone using your captive portal logs in using their Facebook account, you could have permission to collect information such as, email address, gender, age group, date of birth, interests, etc.

In addition, technical data points like the device type, operating system, browser version can also be captured by our cloud infrastructure which help to tailored subsequent visit to ensure a seamless and easy to use experience.

With a vast variety of analytics information, you can create more personalised experiences, based on real and up to date information. This is really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to business intelligence, but by using a simple captive portal you’re much further along than you’d think.

If you have any questions about captive portal or cyber security, please do not hesitate to drop us a note on our website and we will be sure to get back to you.