Thursday, October 02, 2014

How to use a Smartphone as a Wireless Hotspot

Traveling with a laptop or tablet , going to a meeting, even when relaxing in a public place, there are times when network connectivity is necessary.  Many places like hotels, coffee shops, and bookstores offer free wireless, but free wireless can present security risks.  If you are simply surfing the Internet, looking at videos, doing research or other things where you are not required to type any credentials, free wireless access poses a much smaller threat.  If on the other hand, the access will be used on any site where credentials are needed, to access email, log into bank accounts, social media or others, using a smartphone to create a hotspot for wireless access is much safer.  Logging into a social media site may not seem risky, however, if you reuse either the user id or password as any part of other credentials, you put yourself at risk.  Using public wifi access does not undoubtedly mean your information is at risk, rather it unnecessarily increases the risk to your information and data.

Using a smartphone as a wireless hotspot allows the phone to provide wireless connectivity to other devices securely since it requires a password to connect.  This allows devices access to the Internet, protects data and credentials, and controls who connects to your hotspot.  Hotspots can be extremely useful for a device without any wireless networks within range yet cellular data is still available.  When a smartphone is used as a hotspot it is important to keep in mind connecting devices for Internet access will increase the data usage counted against your smartphone plan.  The amount of data used by the connected device is passed via the smartphone and this usage will be added to the existing data plan.  If the usage goes beyond the plan size, you will be charged for the additional data and possibly penalty fees.  Use the hotspot feature cautiously depending upon the size of the data plan and check with your carrier to see if there are additional charges for using this feature.  If you only utilize the hotspot feature occasionally, using a smartphone as a wireless hotspot can conveniently provide secure wireless access to other devices.  To use your smartphone as a hotspot:  

Turn on the hotspot feature

Android phones - Click Settings, select "Wireless & Networks", then touch to click the box next to "Portable Wi-Fi hotspot". 

iPhones - Click Settings, select "Personal Hotspot", then touch to toggle the button next to "Personal Hotspot" on.  When prompted to turn on your wifi as well as Bluetooth and USB, select "Bluetooth and USB".

Configure the hotspot settings

Android phones - Click "Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Settings".  This will display the default password, security level, and network SSID*.  Use the hotspot settings to take note of the network SSID the hotspot is broadcasting.  Click on the default password to change the password to something easier to remember, but still strong in security.

iPhones - The name of the SSID* is listed under the personal hotspot toggle button.  Click on the default password to open the Wi-Fi password menu.  Backspace or click the x to type in an easier to remember password, but still strong in security.

*The SSID is the name of the wireless network the smartphone is broadcasting so other devices can connect to it.

Connect devices to the hostpot

Android & iPhones - Go to the device without Internet access.  Click on the wireless icon in the upper left corner for a MAC device, or in the lower left corner for a Windows device.  In the list of wireless networks available to connect to, click on the SSID noted in the previous step.  When prompted, enter either the default password or the password set in the previous step.  Within a minute the device should connect to the wireless hotspot and Internet browsing should be available.

Once devices are connected to the hotspot, browsing the Internet is the same as when connected to any other network.  Using a smartphone as a wireless hotspot can be extremely helpful when another wireless network is not present, or when only free public access is available.  Free public wifi access is fine for general web browsing, but for online banking, or using account credentials, utilizing a secure hotspot is a safer way to connect to the Internet.  Lastly, remember to disconnect devices from the hotspot when you no longer need it, as well as turning off the hotspot feature on the smartphone.

Good luck and happy browsing!

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