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Last week I asked if anybody else had trouble connecting to Playhouse Squares' Freelink from inside $Starbuck$. I asked the question to the Community Wireless Network listserv: "Could Tmobile be doing something sinister here?"
I got a response from Michael Oh, the brains behind the NewberryOpen.net and the SalemOpen.net in Massachusetts. (Newberry used the underground marketing tactic of spraying signal into a $tarbuck$ from a mobile access point. See his presentation with pictures of the sneak attack here.)
Something similar, but not directly related. There was a time that Starbucks had APs that would allow you to ping the broadcast address and then find others on the network, presumably allowing you to file share and things, etc.
Recently (i.e. in the last few months), Starbucks has increased their security to include 802.1x as well, which I suspect means either new APs or new firmware on their boxes. At the same time, it looks like they do some sort of blocking between wireless connections, so that even if you know the other person's IP on wireless, you can't do anything - no file sharing, pinging, nothing. Sorry, guys, no more file sharing at Starbucks.
[As a side note, the reason that we found this out was for a TV spot where they wanted us to prove that Starbucks was just as insecure as other networks. Imagine our embarrassment. Luckily, it made for bad TV, so that section went on the cutting room floor.]
It's possible that they're using enterprise technologies that do "block" other APs - a la Airespace (I'm not sure how they do it), but I would think it would be unlikely for you to even attach to an AP if that was the case.
Short story: they're much more secure than you think they are, so it's possible they're also a lot sneakier.
Sascha Meinrath, the organizer of the National Summit chimed in as well.
This is a really sad development. Basically, it's an artificial limiting of the resources that would otherwise be available to network users. Basically eliminating the LAN aspects of a WAP. Seems rather foolhardy to me, but then again, the whole pay-for-access business model is pretty silly.
But it is strange that Starbucks wants to shoot itself in the other foot -- spending time and money to make the service _less_ useful to customers.
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