I have a Laundromat and provide free Wi-Fi for my active customers. I also
have a neighboring apartment and houses that may be using it also. All they
would have to do is visit the laundry and get the password off the wall. How
can I block, let’s say, the neighbors behind the Laundromat? How about a lead
In this excerpt from
Answercast #97 I look at ways a Laundromat could protect the free WiFi
access point it is providing for it’s customers.
Neighbors access WiFi hotspot
The short answer is no, certainly not a lead shield.
I mean you’d be throwing a lead shield up against one wall, or something like that, and even then I’m not sure that it would actually block things sufficiently. Wireless connections go out in several different directions.
Constantly change password
Unfortunately, I really don’t have a good answer for you. What I would do personally in your situation is change the password daily; potentially even multiple times a day if things are really bad. Changing the password daily is probably the simplest way to keep people from connecting. They couldn’t come down, see the password once and then connect forever after.
It makes it inconvenient to reconnect to your hotspot. It doesn’t make it impossible; I get that – all somebody has to do is walk down read the password and then go back to their home and connect.
That’s why I say maybe you want to do it a couple times a day.
Make the password inaccessible
The thing to do of course is to make sure that the password is visible to your patrons but not visible, for example, from the street. Then people who are just walking by can’t see the password and therefore can’t connect. People actually have to come in.
The other approach is to not post it. Actually change it on a regular basis but only tell it to people who come up to the counter and ask. This is actually what a lot of hotels will do. They will change the password on a regular basis and they will only give the password when someone checks in. They’ll give it to them on a piece of paper right then and there.
So that’s another alternative that could again make it somewhat more difficult, yet not impossible, for nearby neighbors to use this service that you’re providing to your customers.
Problems with open access
Ultimately, it is one of the drawbacks of providing open Wi-Fi access. There is no way of drawing a physical line or ensuring that only those people inside the place can actually use it.
The only other solution that I’m aware of is not use Wi-Fi at all – but actually provide wired internet connectivity.
Unfortunately, especially with all of the different wireless devices that are out there right now, including tablets and iPads and phones and such, that doesn’t even solve the problem for a lot of people.
So, ultimately I’d have to just come down on the side of changing the password on a semi-regular basis, probably daily to begin with, and if it continues to be a problem then take the password down off the wall and have people ask for it at the counter.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)
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