Jane is waiting in an airport lobby for her turn to catch a flight. As she looks around, she notices that the airport provides public WiFi. She pulls out her phone, activates the WiFi setting, and attempts to connect to the internet.
Instead of the WiFi automatically connecting, she is redirected to a webpage. Before she may access the internet, she is prompted to enter her personal information and accept some terms. She now has internet access after completing the required protocols.
Most of you have had a similar experience in the commercial sector. It might occur in a restaurant, a hospital, a retail mall, or any other location. This type of login is also known as a captive portal login.
By the end of this post, you will have gained knowledge about captive portal login, how it works, why businesses utilize this no-brainer technology and a slew of other interesting facts about it. To get the most out of it, make sure you read to the end.
What is a Captive Portal Login?
A captive portal login is a software implementation that redirects a user to a different web address where clients must verify their credentials before receiving access to the internet. The portal can be configured to provide a dedicated service to a given set of users.
This feature is typical in locations that receive a large number of visitors. It is popular in business centers, airport lounges, hotel lobbies, and fast-food chain restaurants, among other places.
Commercial applications and marketing are two examples of how this technology is widely used. Captive portal login is also available on Android smartphones.
When Android users connect to public-access networks, they are sent to an access point that checks whether the internet authentication URLs exist in the network’s wall garden.
How Does A Captive Portal Login Work?
A commercial space provides a venue with multiple access points (AP) for a captive portal to function well.
Access points are networking devices that allow internet-connected devices (such as smartphones, PCs, and television sets) to communicate via wireless networks.
Access points typically operate either physically, as in switches and routers, or remotely, via a cloud-based controller. These gateways provide a suitable interface for peripheral devices in a network to connect.
These access points transmit the name of a WiFi network, which is known technically as an SSID (Service Set Identifiers).
A mobile device selects the SSID (Network name) and is expected to give internet access.
When captive portal login is enabled, the network is often restricted, and a user must submit additional information.
In most cases, this can be performed by authentication via Google, Apple, or Facebook authentication URLs.
In our scenario, Jane will receive access to the airport’s internet if the information she enters on the captive portal splash screen is successfully validated.
She will even be able to surf the internet through that access point automatically in the future, provided her device’s information is updated in the airport’s database.
How Does A Phone Know It Has Been Connected?
When a phone is linked to a network SSID, it certifies internet connectivity using a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) that connects to the internet. These URLs are unique to the operating system being used.
Android phones use Google’s connectivitycheck.gstatic.com URL to confirm the connection, whereas iPhones use the captive.apple.com URL to certify network connectivity.
In other cases, some websites may request more social information about an individual, which is typically done when checking in via Facebook.
If the URL shows that a mobile phone cannot connect to the internet, the phone is justified in assuming that some authentication is required. In turn, a captive portal browser is presented.
Mobile phone browsers are not required for captive portal browsers to activate. The captive portal browser establishes a separate sandbox with its temporary cookies.
Because the cookies are only temporary, they are deleted regularly to keep the captive portal browser secure.
When a user connects to an access point, they gain limited internet access. This restricted access takes the shape of a pre-approved wall garden.
A walled garden is a collection of websites that a user can view without requiring additional authentication.
In most circumstances, the walled garden would let certain apps connect to the internet of a commercial location.
In essence, the airport can enable Jane to visit web pages that promote certain of its products. The airport’s wall garden may not include gstatic.com and captive.apple inside its networks.
Jane is forced to supply additional information to connect to the public to access her social media accounts. The guidelines are still valid for websites that are not part of the airport’s wall garden.
Problems Associated With Captive Portal Logins
When you connect to a network, the splash screen may not appear. Its appearance indicates that gstatic.com or captive.apple are already within the gated garden.
In some cases, the captive portal may fail to display because the DNS is unavailable, resulting in no internet connection.
When a user signs in, the splash screen may not appear in some circumstances. When attempting to connect to the internet, a security certificate issue or a warning about the AP’s inability to authenticate a server identity.
An access point attempts to reroute a user from a requested secure website to a splash screen. To safeguard a user’s security, HTTPS protocols may prohibit traffic redirection to another web page.
You should note that navigating insecure URLs will activate internet access if a user navigates an insecure HTTP website.
The NeverSSL.com website is one of the recommended HTTP websites for testing this issue. If the splash page appears, the authentication is considered normal.
If the page appears, but there is still no internet connection, it could be a firewall misconfiguration or a failure at the RADIUS protocol authentication stage.
Do Captive Portals Interfere With Wireless Security And Privacy?
Captive portal logins may jeopardize an individual’s security and privacy. Man-in-the-middle attacks, in which personal data is captured by a network provider offering this captive portal login, are examples of similar privacy violation authentication.
Furthermore, businesses acquire individual data and utilize it to further their commercial objectives.
They incentivize captive portals to know who is using the network and when. They associate users’ login information with specific internet activities.
Captive portal logins compromise private security while providing few benefits to the end-user. Despite this false-positive network administration method, some captive portals can be secure and provide network protection for a company.
Benefits Of Having Captive Portal Logins
Captive portal logins offer numerous advantages to commercial spaces that see a high volume of traffic daily. The edges are outlined below.
Directing the network traffic
Routing different types of traffic to other servers aids in the maintenance of a network’s health. Separating traffic is a security method that protects a network from unwanted activity, lowering susceptibility risks.
Furthermore, guests’ networks have fewer privileges; therefore, a company’s resources are less vulnerable when exposed.
Imposing network restrictions will protect critical company information from vulnerability exploitation.
Limiting the bandwidth
Efficient resource allocation is critical for the smooth operation of a firm. Security admins can set captive portals to limit the packet rates that guests receive, preventing bandwidth hogging.
Enterprises can use the technology to limit the number of downloads per session, control download speeds, or prohibit sites known for excessive internet consumption.
Captive portals as a marketing resource
A captive portal can be an effective method for gathering routine client demographics. Companies can use them to collect client online activity behaviors and build a business around them.
Businesses also obtain insight into how they should implement marketing or advertising methods to increase profitability. This is possible by achieving a balance between distinctive consumer experiences and company benefits.
Captive portals may require users to sign specific terms and conditions. If some of the words are disregarded, the usage policy might be invoked as liability protection.
By accepting the terms of a captive portal, a user commits to some legal measures that a firm may take if network resources are misused. Furthermore, captive portals provide a standard that network users must voluntarily adhere to.
A captive portal login is a software implementation that redirects users to a different web address where they must validate their credentials before gaining internet access.
Captive portals provide various security benefits to a network and can also be used to promote commercial objectives.
This article also discussed how a captive portal login works. When a user selects a network SSID, the phone associates it with a specific access point (AP).
The operating system of the phone checks for connectivity via Google, Facebook, or Apple captive logins.
When a captive gateway is set up, the phone recognizes that an additional login is necessary. When the user enters the required information, the RADIUS protocol validates the credentials, and the access point grants internet access.