Why Cant I Connect to the Public Wifi?
Published: December 28, 2019
Public wifi is available almost everywhere we go these days, but sometimes it can seem impossible to connect to. What's happening is, your browser isn't loading to the Captive Portal (the page where you log in or accept the terms and conditions for using the network) due to a perceived security threat. The problem is this: most Captive Portals load over HTTP connections and browsers now often only load HTTPS connections for security reasons.
As the S at the end suggests, HTTPS offers an extra security layer that encrypts the data being sent over the network. On HTTP connections, the data being transmitted has no encryption or security. In the past, only websites that needed an extra secure connection worked via HTTPS, but now almost all the websites we commonly use such as Google, Amazon or Facebook work via HTTPS.
The solution to get around this protocol and get direct access is to load a website that works via an HTTP connection. There's actually a website made for the sole purpose of connecting to wifi networks called Never SSL. This website has no encryption or security measures and allows the Captive Portal to load seamlessly.
While this might seem like a definitive and convenient solution for logging on to public wifi networks, there are actually security risks to connecting to public networks. When you can, it's actually much better to use mobile data or a mobile hotspot to access the internet. But if you do need to access an unsecured public network here are a few good things to keep in mind:
- Never enter personal information. It's always best to avoid doing online shopping or checking your bank account on a public network as both processes involve using extremely sensitive personal information.
- Use your best judgment to decide if the network is trustworthy. For example, wifi at a chain such as Starbucks is generally more trustworthy because the company is already getting your money and they want you to keep coming back.
- Use a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts the data traveling between your device and the network for extra security. If you do choose to sign up for a VPN service, do your research to find a reputable one.