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Public WiFi access - why pay?

As in frequent BT Openzone (opens in new tab)user, I tend to use WiFi to check my email when out and about at shows and conferences.

I was intrigued to read about Qualy (opens in new tab)s, the vulnerability management specialist, talking about the security threat from WiFi networks as being "infinitesimally small."

I found this greatly amusing as I tapped into my email and surfed the Net whilst waiting for a train at Newcastle station on Friday evening - especially since my WiFi access was free of charge.

Whilst there are a couple of pay-for WiFi networks at Newcastle station, there's also one company across the street from the station that appears to be allowing unfettered access to the Net.

Users of BT Openzone and T-Mobile's Hotspot service normally won't see these networks, as their client software is geared to look for accessible network hotspots.

If, however, you use a sniffer-type package such as the one from Boingo (opens in new tab), a US WiFi operator, you can "see" which WiFi networks are in your vicinity.

And sure enough, if you scan carefully at Newcastle station, you can "see" the free network. It's not the strongest signal, but sitting in the Centurion Bar (opens in new tab)at the station, you can sip a glass of ale, munch a sandwich and surf the Net for free.

Such events will be unwelcome news to Gerhard Eschelbeck, Qualys' chief technology officer, who claims that the results from his firm's annual survey (opens in new tab)show that only one in 20,000 critical vulnerabilities was caused by a wireless device.

"One reason for this is that WLAN kit enjoys the luxury of having had security designed into it from the outset," says Qualys.

Tell that to the firm across the road from Newcastle station.

Tee hee!...