Going online at the airport? Avoid “Free Public WiFi” rogue

‘Tis the season for airline travel. If you’ve ever tried to connect to a wireless network at an airport, coffee shop, or other public place you might have seen a network called “Free Public WiFi” and you’ve probably been tempted to try it.


If you’re using Windows XP and you haven’t installed the latest updates, connecting to this network could not only expose your personal information to hackers, but could give you a virus that you could spread to other computers.

A vulnerability in Windows XP (that was fixed several years ago) caused computers to connect to ad hoc networks automatically. For a good explanation of this problem, read the NPR story The Zombie Network: Beware ‘Free Public WiFi.’

If you’re still using Windows XP, go to Windows Update to install all the latest updates on your computer. Then turn on automatic updating. (Note: If you’ve never installed a service pack on Windows XP, your operating system is no longer supported and you should upgrade to Windows 7. Microsoft supports Windows XP Service Pack 3 and higher. For more information, see What does End of Support mean?)

We recommend that you use automatic updating no matter what operating system you’re using. You should also consider upgrading to Windows 7, the newest and most secure version of the Windows operating system.

  If you’re running
Windows XP, keep your operating system updated and steer clear of this deceptive network.





About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. Anonymous

    Running 7 Starter. Last time I tried a "Free Public Wifi" network was at an Amtrak station. Most connections failed and the one I got brought up the station's pay-for-access page in my browser.

    Think they missed the point.

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