Download (direct link):
Your best way of avoiding the evil twin is to use an authentication system like those built into many hot spot roaming clients whenever you log into an unfamiliar hot spot. Authentication systems use digital certificates and keys to ensure that every participant in the hot spot is who they say they are. And always remember to use SSL (secure Web sites, in other words) when you're doing any kind of confidential transactions online at a hot spot.
The Boingo client allows you to connect to your home Wi-Fi network, free hot spots, and any Boingo network hot spot, all from the same interface. When you’re on the Boingo network as a paying customer, all of your Internet traffic is encrypted and carried through Boingo’s own VPN network, so no one can sniff your packets and intercept your Internet traffic.
Sniffing packets refers to the act of listening in on a network connection and reading the data as it goes over the network. People with the right equipment can sit next to you while you work and read information as you transmit it from your machine. It’s not very nice, we agree, but a good reason to limit credit card use on the Internet when surfing at a public location.
The Boingo client can also protect you against the “Evil Twin” security attack (for more information, see the sidebar titled “Here comes the evil twin”). That’s because the Boingo client uses a strong authentication system to ensure that a hot spot with a Boingo SSID will actually be on Boingo’s network.
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Check out Chapters 8 and 10 for the bottom line on all the things you should be doing to secure your Wi-Fi connections (and your Wi-Fi network).
Finally, Boingo’s client (which we discuss in the section later titled “Using the Boingo client”) has a built-in hot spot database. This database functions sort of like the location-based databases used in many dial-up Internet dialer programs. You can plug in a country, state, city, area code, or ZIP code, press a button, and the client program spits out a list of hot spots nearby. In many cases, this hot spot display even includes a map of the hot spot and a picture.
Boingo’s network and client software aren’t used only for Boingo customers. The company “white labels” — provides a customizable generic version — its software for other companies like MCI, EarthLink, and BT Infonet. If you use one of these services to get onto hot spots, you’re actually using Boingo!
Going with corporate remote access
Boingo’s not the only game in town when it comes to hot spot roaming.
A whole category of companies out there is dedicated to providing remote access services for businesses. These services are designed to do a few different things, including
Provide multiple modes of remote access. Subscribers to these services can get connected to the Internet (and their corporate networks) via Wi-Fi hot spots, dial-up connections, wired broadband connections, and even wireless data services like 3G.
^ Provide secure connections to corporate networks. Remote access services offer not only VPN connections over the wireless portion of the network (like Boingo offers), but also provide a way of connecting all the way through the Internet into corporate VPNs. This allows road warriors to securely access file servers, e-mail, intranets, and other network assets just as if they were in the office, no matter where they are.
^ Provide policy management. This makes the network administrators at your business really happy. Because the remote access service controls and monitors the end-to-end network connection, it can ensure that users follow all of the corporate policies regarding network and Internet access. No checking the ESPN.com college basketball scoreboard from that expensive hot spot in Timbuktu!
A lot of companies specialize in remote access solutions. For the most part, these companies are a lot different than Boingo (or T-Mobile or Wayport) in that they really do specialize in the enterprise market. So the average person can’t sign up for an account — the focus here is on bigger businesses.
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If your business is in need of something more sophisticated than a simple Wi-Fi roaming service, consider one of these services. They’re a great way to keep connected (via Wi-Fi or otherwise), and they can provide all of your employees with a secure solution without a lot of sophisticated set-up (using their own client software, which includes the VPN).
We don’t talk about them too much here, but if you’re looking for a remote access provider, you might want to check out these two companies:
^ iPASS: www.ipass.com ^ GoRemote: www.goremote.com
Getting Online at a Hot Spot
Connecting to a hot spot network is usually as easy as (and in many cases, even easier than) connecting at your home or office.
Using Windows XP Wireless Zero Config
If you’re using Windows XP, the easiest way to get online at a hot spot is to just use XP’s built-in Wireless Zero Configuration system.