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I understand that connecting to a wireless network using a WEP/WPA key is also encrypting the data you send over the network, hiding it from potential sniffers in range of the network (please correct me if I am wrong here).

Is an unsecured wireless network (that is not secured with a WEP or WPA key), but relying on web authentication via a Captive Portal a safe network? Is data that I am transferring (after authentication) over such a network transparent to the outside world?

How about users also authenticated over the Captive Portal web authentication page? Can someone sniff the Captive Portal traffic and get hold of the data?

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    Please explain precisely what you mean by "a safe network". – Mike Pennington Apr 10 '14 at 12:09
  • Because I don't know much about network security, and start with the assumption that WPA secured networks allow me to transfer data without it being exposed to a potential eaves-dropper, by safe I mean a level a security comparable to WPA secured networks. – brett Apr 10 '14 at 13:11
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Putting aside the question of how one would define a "safe network," web authentication is typically used to restrict access by wireless users to a resource, such as a corporate network, or Internet access.

Without using some form of encryption, anyone within range can sniff traffic and eavesdrop on the data being sent.

In other words, using web authentication alone provides no confidentiality. Your data is accessible for anyone interested in it.

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  • @Ron does a potential sniffer have to be authenticated himself in order to see the packages? – brett Apr 10 '14 at 16:37
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    @ionuke, unless you are using an encrypted wireless connection, anyone can capture your data, you are broadcasting in the clear and just like FM radio, anyone with a receiver can pick up the signal. If, as Mike suggest, you use HTTPS, VPN or another encryption method, that data will be protected. – YLearn Apr 10 '14 at 17:50
  • @YLearn this makes a lot of sense. thank you for the missing piece of information. – brett Apr 11 '14 at 12:56

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