Perimeter 2min de Leitura - 25 de August de 2020

Captive portal, what is it and why use it?

Celular e notebook sobre a mesa

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In recent decades, we have had the opportunity to follow the constant evolution of the internet, from the old dial-up connection to the arrival of broadband, transmitted through increasingly smaller devices and at much more attractive prices. Easy access to the internet has boosted the improvement of the technologies for its transmission and connection, also contributing to the dissemination of wireless internet in residential, public and corporate environments.

In the current scenario, it is becoming more and more common for public and private environments to make Internet access available to users free of charge, bringing convenience, joining companies and people, for a variety of purposes. However, providing access to the Internet must comply with certain formalizations. The provision of free Internet access in public and private environments should follow a series of security guidelines aimed at minimizing their use by malicious persons for illicit activities.

In this post, understand how applying a captive portal can help you keep your business in line with legal requirements, as well as good security practices, regarding the provision of Internet access to users through hotspots. Enjoy the reading!

The captive portal and its importance

The captive portal is an application responsible for controlling and managing the access of users to public and private networks in an automated way. Captive portals are commonly used in open access networks, available in stores, malls, clinics, airports, supermarkets, and corporate networks, for visitor access management. The captive portal allows administrators to provide access to the internet by passing on information that allows user identification, such as name, e-mail, Social Security number, or authentication by using a voucher.

Captive portal – Operating model

The captive portal works without the need for user intervention when connecting to the wireless network (and this can be used in wired networks as well), once the user connects, or attempts to make their first access to a website, it is done an automatic redirection to a connection validation page, which usually aims to authenticate/identify the user.

Once the identification is successfully performed, the user is then redirected automatically (in most cases) to the website previously entered. In most of the solutions, there is a monitoring of user activity, so that the session is properly expired, either by inactivity, or by exceeding the configured time.

There are many possibilities for deployment, but the basic operation consists in redirecting the first traffic, after joining the wireless network, to an identification page in order to collect the minimum information of that user who seeks to use the service.

Captive portal application examples

In private environments, the captive portal can be used to manage the entrance of visitors/employees in the corporate network. It is worth mentioning that the use of the captive portal should be associated to other security features, ensuring control over users’ navigation (definition of what can be accessed), band limitation, physical/logical isolation of the network and other resources to avoid compromising company operations.

Another quite common application of the captive portal is associated with the management of Wi-Fi access in events. Virtually all events, regardless of their size, provide internet structure to participants, being indispensable to guarantee the security and availability of this resource, since in some cases it is directly associated to the success of the event.

Public environments such as hotels, hospitals, clinics, malls, also often provide Internet access to their customers; however, in most cases these accesses are not controlled, facilitating the action of malicious users. In addition, due to the occurrence of some security incident, the lack of registration may make it difficult to detect those responsible for the action.

In recent years, internet access has ceased to be an exclusive feature of computers. The popularization of smartphones, tablets and other devices, which have a Wi-Fi connection, have projected exponentially accesses in public and private networks. This reality demands the development of increasingly improved controls on the navigation of these users, ensuring the safety and proper functioning of the service.

Does your company already use the captive portal to manage wireless network access? What benefits did it bring to your business? Share your questions and experiences with us!

This post is also available in: English Português Español