“Free Public Wifi” Networks: Neither Free, Nor Public, Nor Wifi

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Beware: This network may look promising as it pops up in public places like cafes or airports — but it could leave your computer vulnerable.

If you try to connect to a wireless network called “Free Public Wifi,” it won’t connect you to the Internet. That’s because these “networks” are remnants of an old Windows XP bug, NPR reports. In this bug, when one’s typical networks aren’t available, the computer will automatically create a network with the name of the last network it connected to. This creates “zombie” networks like Free Public Wifi, or ones like “linksys” or “hpsetup.” The bug has been fixed by a Service Pack update, but some users have not updated their computers. (Instead of using zombie networks, see 10 ways to stay connected while on the road.)

Trying to connect to the network will actually connect you to the person’s computer, which can leave your computer open for hackers to check out your files. To protect yourself, install the Windows XP update — and resist the urge for free wireless.

When it comes to the Internet, after all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. (via Consumerist)