Do you need a guest WiFi network?

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Guest WiFi networks: go public

In the aftermath of the central Italian earthquake, the Italian Red Cross published a Tweet asking people in the area to disable their Wi-Fi password protection.

‘In areas where there were no more phone lines but there was still Internet, they wanted to give people the ability to communicate, even only to say they were alive,’ Italian Red Cross spokesperson Tommaso Della Longa told Wired magazine.

Now, you don’t want every Tommaso, Dick and Harry to have unfettered access to the same network that connects your hard drive, your toaster and your printer.

So how do you donate bandwidth without hackers harvesting your digital organs?

Set up a guest network, with limits.

Guest WiFi networks: stay private

It works the same way as a guest network at the hairdresser’s: you can update your status and look at short cat videos, but you can’t download Wagner’s 5-hour operatic masterpiece ‘Gotterdammerung’ or print a recipe you find online.

Most home routers have customisable ‘guest’ account options. Click a few icons, and you can limit bandwidth and content, as well as access to your other connected devices.

Guest networks are also great for parties: do you really want to give your best friend’s sister’s cousin’s blind date your main password? And one can prepare for family events, with porn filters flying high! This also keeps pesky visiting gamers focussed on their vegetables, not chomping up all your bandwidth.

If World War III starts, and I don’t mean at the dinner table, your guest network is already set up. All you have to do is disable the password.

Because temporary Internet hubs cost a fortune, usually only the folks paying for them have access. Not only can your wireless heroism help victims and first responders communicate, your fast and free Wi-Fi can save lives.

Sarah is a blogger, writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.