Who doesn’t love the word ‘free’. So when we see the term ‘free public wi-fi’ at the airport, coffee shop or where-ever, who can resist the temptation to connect. But if you are using an older copy of Windows XP, that hasn’t been updated to SP3, you should be aware of this bug that may open your computer for the public to scrutinize. Microsoft is aware of the problem and fixed the problem for those using Windows XP with SP3. But some folks have not updated to the latest service pack.
Here is how the bug works:
When a computer running an older version of XP can’t find any of its “favorite” wireless networks, it will automatically create an ad hoc network with the same name as the last one it connected to -– in this case, “Free Public WiFi.” Other computers within range of that new ad hoc network can see it, luring other users to connect. And who can resist the word “free?”
Not a lot of people, judging from the spread of Free Public WiFi. Computers with the XP bug that try to connect to the Internet will remember the name, create their own ad hoc networks and entice other users wherever they go.
It’s not the only zombie network out there, either. Others you may have seen go by such alluring names as “linksys,” “hpsetup,” “tmobile” or “default.”
Unintentionally creating or connecting to the ad hoc network isn’t inherently harmful, despite its virus-like spread. It does, however, provide an access point for hackers to come in and check out the user’s files.
To me it sounds as simple as upgrading to SP3 if you are using Windows XP. Or is it that simple? The unfortunate thing is that many people who have tried the upgrade to SP3 have experienced problems with their computers. Problems exhibited are a slow down of the computer, unable to gain Internet access and other issues. So for those who haven’t upgraded or who can’t upgraded, take heed. You may wish to steer clear from public wi-fi hot spots.