In our increasingly interconnected world, reliable Internet access has become a necessity for daily life. Whether it’s using in-app services in a store, having a fun time at a theme park, or staying connected while traveling, WiFi is often the only option when cellular networks are unavailable, either due to a lack of coverage or data plan limitations when abroad.

For a long time, the captive portal has been the default WiFi solution adopted by many. In fact, a recent study by cybersecurity firm Wandera found that 95% of organizations in the United States and Europe utilize some form of captive portal for their WiFi networks.

However, the captive portal may not be the optimal solution for every WiFi service scenario, particularly in situations that involve mobile app users or unmanaged devices in campuses. In these cases, where the need for seamless and secure connectivity is critical, alternative approaches are required to effectively meet the demands.

The security vulnerabilities of a captive portal

WiFi security is a pressing concern for companies, with Symantec reporting that 83% of all network attacks in 2020 occurred through WiFi. The SonicWall Cyber Threat Report also confirmed a 68% increase in enterprise attacks in 2020 compared to the previous year. Furthermore, the Ponemon Institute’s 2021 survey revealed that 82% of organizations reported at least one incident related to unprotected WiFi networks.

A captive portal poses security risks for several reasons. Firstly, it often uses HTTP instead of HTTPS to transmit login credentials, which means that usernames and passwords are sent in plain text and can be intercepted by attackers.

Secondly, even if a captive portal uses HTTPS for login credentials, the remaining network traffic of the user may not be encrypted. This means that an attacker could intercept and read the user’s network traffic, including sensitive information such as passwords and personal data.

Lastly, a captive portal typically relies on a simple password or click-through agreement to authenticate users. This means that anyone who knows the password or clicks through the agreement can access the network, even if they are not authorized.

The user experience drawbacks of a captive portal

Using a captive portal for authentication can result in a frustrating user experience. In areas with multiple public hotspots, users may become overwhelmed by a lengthy list of SSIDs, leading to difficulty in locating the correct SSID during the manual selection process and causing significant frustration.

Additionally, even after choosing the correct SSID, the captive portal may not appear. This issue is not dependent on the user’s device or WiFi access point, but rather the lack of standardization inherent in a captive portal setup.

Furthermore, even when users successfully sign up for WiFi access, they often have to complete tedious forms each time they visit a location due to MAC randomization.

The consequences? Users may complain or, worse, leave negative reviews that impact the company’s reputation. Troubles loom on the horizon, causing sleepless nights for IT teams.

Introducing Passpoint (aka Hotspot 2.0)

Passpoint is a Wi-Fi Alliance certification program that enables devices to automatically and securely authenticate and connect to WiFi networks. It grants instant, secure WiFi access to devices after a one-time provisioning of the Passpoint profile. Enabled devices automatically connect to WiFi networks whenever they arrive at any location. Companies can provision the Passpoint profile directly through their mobile apps – such as the loyalty app– or through a web link – for example for BYOD scenarios. Passpoint uses a set of standardized protocols and security mechanisms, including EAP TLS and WPA2/WPA3-Enterprise, to provide stronger authentication and encryption.

Passpoint benefits for users, companies, and IT network managers

Passpoint is a game-changer, offering a wealth of advantages to both users and companies in the WiFi realm.

For users:

  • Fortified browsing security: Passpoint establishes a secure and encrypted connection between user devices and WiFi networks allowing users to browse with peace of mind, as they know their sensitive information is safeguarded.
  • Automatic authentication: Passpoint streamlines the authentication process, allowing users to connect to WiFi networks seamlessly and instantly. No more hassles, just swift and convenient access.
  • Extended battery life: Constantly searching for and connecting to WiFi networks can drain mobile devices’ battery power. Passpoint eliminates the need for continuous searching, resulting in improved battery life.

For companies:

  • Mitigated risk of data breaches: By implementing Passpoint, companies can establish a more secure WiFi network for their users. This proactive measure significantly reduces the risk of security breaches and data theft, safeguarding valuable information and preserving the trust of users.
  • Increased user satisfaction: Passpoint eliminates the need for manual input, minimizing user frustration, decreasing support calls, and soaring overall satisfaction levels. A happy user base translates into increased loyalty and positive company reputation.
  • Enhanced productivity: With Passpoint’s faster and more reliable WiFi connectivity, employees can work with improved efficiency and productivity. No more wasted time on unreliable connections or troubleshooting network issues. Passpoint empowers teams to focus on what truly matters—delivering outstanding results.
  • Reduced support costs: The implementation of Passpoint translates into significant cost savings for companies. IT support staff can breathe a sigh of relief as Passpoint minimizes the need for their assistance with WiFi connectivity issues. With fewer help desk calls and less time spent on troubleshooting, IT resources can be allocated more strategically.
  • Advanced location awareness: Passpoint goes beyond the limitations of MAC randomization, providing companies with a deterministic location awareness about WiFi users. This valuable information opens up opportunities for delivering innovative location-aware experiences, such as on-premises app mode.

Benefits for IT network managers:

  • Enhanced network security: Passpoint equips IT network managers with greater control over WiFi network security. With the ability to monitor and manage user authentication and access to the network, IT teams can proactively identify and address potential security vulnerabilities, ensuring a robust and protected network infrastructure.
  • Streamlined WiFi access management: Passpoint simplifies WiFi access management by automating the connectivity process. IT network managers can say goodbye to painstaking SSID management and welcome hassle-free network administration.
  • Reduced IT support: Passpoint significantly reduces IT support by minimizing the need for personnel to address WiFi connectivity issues. With fewer help desk calls and less time spent on troubleshooting, IT resources can get peace of mind in managing WiFi services.

Complementing the captive portal

The captive portal is no longer the universal WiFi solution. In specific scenarios, such as those involving mobile app users or unmanaged devices in campuses, Passpoint emerges as the modern approach to WiFi. Once users are authorized on a Passpoint-enabled network, they can forget about the complexities and enjoy a seamless experience. For IT network managers, adopting Passpoint is a game-changer, as it empowers them with enhanced security, streamlined management, and reduced support costs.

Cloud4Wi provides a Passpoint-based solution that helps companies offer secure and seamless WiFi services across all their locations – without any additional workload for IT staff. Ready to power your WiFi security framework? Request a demo now