Is there any real point to secure wi-fi?

Sat having a beer in sunny Paradise Square, Ian Drabble and myself were chatting about the architecture business but there was no wi-fi access for us to have a look at a few interesting websites. We were in the heart of Sheffield city centre surrounded by professional offices, bars and cafés and there was not a single free wi-fi point. Even the Wig and Pen had its wi-fi secured to its customers.

Everything was securely locked down. I say securely with a caveat. No network is really secure unless you go to an awful lot of trouble and expense.

So all these buildings were occupied by people who use wi-fi inside but as soon as they are out of range they are stuck with expensive 3G access or the ubiquitous but restrictive BT cloud. We agreed that the idea of paying for access was totally counter productive for a business - we'll just go somewhere* that doesn't charge.

The obvious answer is to have your router unsecured and let anyone and everyone use your connection. Real internet security is on the other side of the wireless system and anyone who isn't secured server side might as well hand out the bank PIN number as well. If you are really careful or paranoid then you could have a separate publicly open wi-fi

In short there is no real benefit to having secure wi-fi, but the benefits in opening up your access to all (including yourself) are enormous.

* This is a shameless plug for the excellent Café Moco on West Street where there has always been free gratis wi-fi access, and where I'm sat posting to the blog with a great coffee to hand. Unlike Starbucks and their ilk they realised years ago that wi-fi is a part of the furniture that brings you in, not a way of extracting a pittance and annoying your customers.