A hotspot is a place where you can get Internet access using wifi. Just as described in the section on setting up a home network, you connect to a wireless router, which has been set up by someone or a company who has paid an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for access to the Internet.
Hotspots come in various flavours. They can be 'open' or 'unsecured'. You just need to be within range of the wireless router (typically within 20 -30 metres), select it from the list of available networks and you get connected without knowing a password. This might sound great - free access but it comes with a serious set of security risks. The reason is that any data you send over an unsecured network (a network where you don't have to enter a password) is easily available for anyone with the right software to grab - and the software to do this is widely available on the Internet. So, for example, any photos you send or any email accounts you use can be easily seen by others. If you don't have some software called a Firewall set up properly on your connecting device, and you have 'file sharing' still turned on in your settings, it is also possible for someone to gain access to your hard disk. Just by connecting to an open network, you are opening up yourself to anyone else on that network! In addition, if you use someone's network without their permission, you may also be breaking the law.
Hotspots can be free but password protected. You have to be in range of the router and you need to know the password. Sometimes in a cafe, these are simply stuck to a wall for everyone to see and at other times, you have to ask the owner for the name of the network and the password. You then select the name of the network from the list that appears on your phone, tablet or laptop, for example, enter the password and you are connected. Sometimes, access is free but you have to set up an account, often using a mobile phone number to verify the account. You then get login and password details. Finally, there are hotspots where you have to pay. You pay a company a fee, usually by credit card, for so much access time. When you are within range of the company's router, you open up a browser, enter in a login and password and you are connected, until your time runs out! With all public networks, there is a risk that your sensitive information can be grabbed by someone else. The same advice applies here as for with unsecured networks. You should always use a Firewall and check that file sharing is disabled. Many people advise never to do any sensitive transactions over public networks e.g. never do banking transactions, for example. Browsing using a secure browser is also recommended, something like this.
If you have two devices, one with 3g Internet access e.g. a phone and one without e.g. a tablet with just wifi, it is possible with many phones to set up a hotspot. This is called 'tethering'. Typically, you have to find a box to tick in your phone's settings that tells the phone to turn tethering on. You have to give your temporary hotspot a name and sometimes a password or passcode, although this is also sometimes automatically generated for you. Anyone within range of your phone can then see the name of your hotspot in their list of available wireless networks. As long as they have the password or passcode, they can get access to the Internet using your phone! You need to be careful, though. For one, they might use up your bandwidth very quickly and you will have to pay for more. You might also be breaking your phone provider's terms and conditions. For example, you may have a package that allows unlimited Internet access but they will state that tethering is not allowed to protect themselves from excessive downloads. Your phone company may suspend your account if it detects a sudden surge of data being downloaded.
Q1. What is a hotspot?
Q2. What is meant by an 'open' network?
Q3. Why are open networks potentially hazardous to use?
Q4. Is it illegal to access someone's wifi network without their permission?
Q5. What does a firewall do?
Q6. What is meant by 'File sharing'?
Q7. What two pieces of information do you need to get access to a wifi network in a cafe, for example?
Q8. Why should you not do banking over any public hotspot?
Q9. What is meant by tethering?
Q10. Describe the general steps you need to take to tether your phone to a tablet PC.
a) Find out how to check whether file sharing is switched off on a laptop or other device.
b) Find out if your phone or tablet PC comes with a firewall and how to switch it on and off. If it hasn't got one, look up Firewalls in your App Store.