In our residential apartment building my iPod Touch usually connects to a network called "Free Public WiFi" whenever I step into the lobby. The same "Free Public WiFi" is also available below my office building and it turns out that it is available in several other places including airports and restaurants.
However, connecting to this "Free Public WiFi" does not give you access to an internet, puzzling? Well, the Free Public WiFi is not actually a internet network and is a bug which exists in an older version of Windows XP.
According to a blog post from NPR, Free Public WiFi is a bug which has been lurking around in Windows XP, where it creates an ad hoc network with the same name it previously connected to, in this case "Free Public WiFi".
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?"
So what happens when you connect to this network?
Free Public WiFi isn’t set up like most wireless networks people use to get to the Internet. Instead, it’s an "ad hoc" network â€” meaning when a user selects it, he or she isn’t connecting to a router or hot spot, but rather directly to someone else’s computer in the area.
The origin of "Free Public WiFi" networks is not known, however, it does exist in Windows XP. To get rid of this bug, you will need to update to Windows XP Service Pack 3.
Free Public WiFi does not cause any harm as such, but it has been spreading like wildfire considering the amount of networks you see as Free Public WiFi across the United States and other places. Connecting to this network may not cause you any harm, but it would be wise not to do it considering that it does not give you access to the internet anyways.