back to article Windows Phone 8 has a secret feature which may activate at any time

Microsoft has embedded software from Devicescape into Windows Phone 8, allowing smartmobes to automatically leech off 11 million free Wi-Fi hotspots. Devicescape's technology is already mandated by Intel in its Ultrabook blueprints, but this Windows Phone tie-up is potentially a much bigger deal as phones already outnumber …


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the headline makes this sound overly sinister! and its hardly secret! its a live tile and a setting that allows a user to tailor their data usage, offloading to wifi if needed or when approaching the limit on the data plan...

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Indeed, it's a way to reduce your 3G/4G usage.

If it was Android then all the people here would be talking about how cool it is and how other handsets don't do it.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

...and don't forget how revolutionary it will be when Apple invents it in three years

Steve Knox
Silver badge
Big Brother

The Devil is in the Details


Such hotspots typically require the user to fill in a form and provide some personal details, and it's these steps that Devicescape automates.

The question is, which personal details are in play here, and does the software allow you to opt out if personal details are requested?

This post has been deleted by its author

M Gale

There are already several Android apps that locate free wifi hotspots already?

Nice of Microsoft to play catch-up.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

...and don't forget how quickly Apple will sue when Samsung also invents it in three years +/- a small delta.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

"Nice of Microsoft to play catch-up."

Yup - a level playing field makes it better for the end user. Doubt most normal people care at all who had things first, as opposed to who has it when they want it. But then I'm normal too ...

Amorous Cowherder

Oh yeah it's no problem MS deciding to hand out my email address and phone number to all and sundry just to get a bit of free WiFi!

Where's my choice in the matter?



Hope their stuff has improved. Their Easy Wifi stuff on Nokia S60 used to brick my phone. Would mess with the network settings in such a way that it stopped working for no reason, phone would throw up system errors, and couldn't be reset or removed without a factory reset.

Also used to attempt to log onto all kinds of bogus hotspots that didn't work. They did have a facility to add in pay accounts to auto connect to pay hotspots like BT Openzone and similar. It never worked for me.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Devicescape

Reviews of the android app would suggest it's still as bug ridden and flaky as it always was


Re: Devicescape

I'm surprised that Apple haven't already patented it.

A J Stiles

Re: Devicescape

They can't patent it. There is substantial prior art: Bugmenot.


Re: Devicescape

Like that's ever stopped them!

Keep Refrigerated

Re: Devicescape

Since when has prior art stopped Apple or the USPTO?

Remember, it's not the patent worthiness that matters, just who can afford to drag out legal proceedings the longest.

Detective Emil
Big Brother


So my phone will provide personal information to random third-party hot-spots without bothering me? No thanks.

Silver badge

Re: Eeek!

It's ok. The packet scanning software on my network only forwards details of people with £10,000 or more in their current account.

You might want to get some hydrocortisone for that rash though.

Anonymous Coward

Isn't this actually against the policy of most free hotspot services? I also don't get how it works, does it share the same personal details other users put in?

Not to mention many hotspots filter DNS queries (due to stuff like DNS tunnelling)

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

What I don't get is why these non-free hotspots that want your details first forward any packets at all to the wan prior to a satisfactory log in. What's the point of filtering certain protocols but allowing other stuff?

Mike Judge

Meh, already out on Android...

Eddie Edwards


Is this how the Nintendo 3DS manages to magically connect to pub WiFi while my iPhone-using ass has to fill in bullshit forms?

mark l 2
Silver badge

of course this is all assuming that you have battery zapping WIFI turned on all the time, i know i don't and i suspect others don't either and just turn on WIFI when i want to connect to a WIFI hotspot.

Also is the claimed 11 million hotspots worldwide or in the UK?

Dave's Jubblies

Have you sub contracted headline writing to the Daily Mail?

What a stupid headline! Talke about sensationalist... sounds like quite a good idea if it works.

What a terrible thing to do...

Adam JC

One small issue...

"DNS requests are typically forwarded by free Wi-Fi networks without requiring the user to be logged on, so the Devicescape server can respond with instructions specific to that hotspot."

I can inform you that they typically are not.

Trying to perform a DNS query when attached to a BT OpenZone (Probably one of the most common types, bar perhaps BTFon when someones BT HomeHub is dishing it out?) - results in the same entry every time when I've just checked - No doubt to redirect you instantly to their 'captive portal' thingy .

Interestingly, I connected to a BT OpenZone a few years back and fired up my lappy - I had what I thought was a stale RDP session open upon resuming - Bizarrely, it let me connect without authenticating....

This was at London Waterloo, and was a few years back - No doubt they've patched it now! - Made my day at the time though. (Before the days of free WiFi was so prevalent...)

Also, Orange have an app that does this for you, as they provide free cloudy WiFi.

Paul Shirley

Re: One small issue...

I still occasionally manage to collect email before logging into free WiFi in a number of places. Doesn't always work in the same places, must be a bug. Welcome though.


Re: One small issue...

Orange app I think is tied to BT Openzone, but I refuse to install it on Android as the reviews are terrible. Again seems to mess up your existing network settings, has problems when dropping out of range and getting back onto 3G etc.

I just use their login pages if I really want to leak all my private data to an open public hotspot, though 9 times out of 10 I find public hotspots suck. Can log in but pages are slow to load or time out often.

3G is easier and in some cases quicker and finding a 3G signal is far easier than trying to find the one genuine BT Openzone hotspot in town as all the other BT ones are those stupid FON things.

Gold badge

@Paul Shirley

You seem to be luckier than me. I often seem to find free WiFi or ones with a one-time code like in hotels that don't do email at all. It seems to be http on port 80 or nothing.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: One small issue...

Meh. Orange don't appear to have that app for Symbian. Bastards.

Didn't someone create a protocol for tunnelling over icmp a while back? Does that still work via Fon/Openzone without a login?

Steve Medway

so it automatically connects....

So how long before many users web based app paswords are compromised (it's not exactly difficult to sniff that stuff on wifi without a VPN to protect you).

I bet it doesn't set up a vpn tunnel to keep you safe whilst on *public* wifi so great idea, but bad security ms :(

If it ever got turned on by default... ohh the poor compromised millions of numpties it'll create will be huge (that's assuming MS actually manage to sell millions of phones ;-)

big Doh!

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

or record how someone connects manually for the benefit of other users.

Erm say what ? it records how you connect and tells others? so how does that thingy work? it broadcasts your wpa key to all win-pho-ers?


Re: or record how someone connects manually for the benefit of other users.


So, this thing which connects to OPEN wifi will broadcast the WPA key, since open points have WPA keys.

I'm confused by your logic.

It's going to autofill in the O2 WIFI/The Cloud/whatever forms for you. Nice and tinfoilhatless.


Just had a thought...

Won't most hotspots mandate manual login so they know that the user has deliberately ticked "I have agreed to the terms and conditions" (and their arse is therefore legally covered?)

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Privacy ?

Urm, so what identifying data (as well as my location gets sent off) and who exactly can get and use that data ? If it can be turned off I don't mind so much, but if this is is made purely automatic in future then I certainly wouldn't be a happy bunny. I'd rather do a little more manual intervention than be tracked by yet another 3rd party and whoever they're affiliated with (which I presume will also include the US government via the Patriot Act, etc).

Silver badge

Time to add Public Hotspot Software?

Time to down load Antamedia HotSpot software, or similar, to control who and what can leach from your WiFi systems ... or to iThingies special slow rates.

Always good to put controls n place like no graphics, no FB or e-mail only.

Frank Bitterlich
Thumb Up

Great idea...

"... or record how someone connects manually for the benefit of other users."

I don't see what could go wrong with that technique... until one day a not-so-public, not-so-free Wifi AP somehowm manages to get onto their list of "Wifi Hotspots" and <del>snitches</del> records the login of some poor soul.


Connecting to Wi-Fi

A WEP/WPA key is not the only way to connect to wifi; backend authentication via 802.x over an HTTPS connection, for example.

J. R. Hartley
Silver badge


Second paragraph from last doesn't make sense to me.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

If I....

... ran a "free" wireless hotspot but asked people to provide their email for future advertising or asked them to answer a survey style question I think I'd be pretty pissed off if someone basically came and tried to basically use my hotspot by bypassing my front end... If the conditions of using the hot spot are that you allow me to mail you in future or you earn me a little bit of money by answering a question then isn't this software breaking some law or another?

Will Godfrey
Silver badge

Personal detai.. NO!

Henry Wertz 1
Gold badge

Two points...

First, I do have two Android apps that do this. Wifi Web Login costs a couple bucks, but makes it so if you connect to an access point with a "captive portal" click-through page, you click through it once and wifi web login records the keystrokes, clicks, etc. you performed. Next time you connect, it auto-replays them. The system used by Star Bucks, McDonalds, Sams Club, etc., doesn't work reliably with Wifi Web Login (I don't remember what wifi "network" these all are); but sbautologin (which is free) works with these.

Second... although I don't take click-through licenses very seriously, wouldn't this solution mean these windows 8 phone users are theoretically being agreed to all sorts of use agreements they have not even had a chance to read? That seems potentially problematic.

Thumb Up

Seems a good way of nefarious people setting up a WiFi connection and collecting data from passing Apple droids....on second thoughts maybe thats not a bad idea after all :D

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