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Captive portal

Captive portal

Captive portal definition

A captive portal is a web page displayed to newly connected users before they gain broader access to network resources. Commonly used by public Wi-Fi networks at places like airports, hotels, and cafes, the captive portal typically asks users to accept terms of service, enter login credentials, or make a payment to access the internet.

When a user connects to a network with a captive portal, their device is usually assigned an IP address and other network information through DHCP. However, all web traffic is intercepted and redirected to the captive portal server until the user completes the login process.

See also: wireless network security

Advantages of using captive portals

  • Control over network access: Network administrators can control who accesses their network and under what conditions.
  • User agreements: Allows terms of service to be displayed and agreed upon before granting full network access.
  • Data collection: Can gather useful user data for analytical purposes.
  • Monetization: Provides a means to monetize network access (like pay-per-use Wi-Fi services).
  • Security: Offers a layer of security by requiring user interaction before granting full network access.

Disadvantages of using captive portals

  • User experience: Can disrupt user experience, especially on devices that automatically connect to open Wi-Fi networks.
  • VPN issues: Can interfere with VPN connections and disrupt ongoing network activities.
  • Privacy issues: Can raise privacy concerns if personal information is collected without the appropriate care.
  • Lack of strong security: Typically unencrypted, leaving user data exposed to potential eavesdropping.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security