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Internet sharing: tethering vs hotspot
Mobile data plans used to be very expensive. Today we see more and more mobile operators offering reasonably priced, and yet truly unlimited mobile data plans, though. In some cases, this makes it possible for people to replace their traditional, wired Internet connections with the ones that are provided by their smart phones, which will often perform better.
When it comes to Internet sharing, mobile devices offer two methods: tethering and wireless hotspots. But which one of them has more advantages? Let's find out!
Tethering allows your smart phone to be used as a modem, which can share its Internet connection with another device. Often, the other device will connect to the phone using a USB cable.
Your phone can also be used as a personal hotspot, a special Wi-Fi access point that can be utilized by up to five different network clients (devices). Mobile hotspots are usually protected by a password which can be either predefined, or set up by the phone user.
Any shared Internet connection is exposed to hackers, of course, so when it comes to comparing tethering and personal hotspots, it is very important to highlight their strengths and weaknesses.
A wired connection is hands down much safer, because the phone and the network client are connected through a USB cable. No radio signals are involved! And since no wireless connection is established, hackers will have a hard time trying to intercept the data that flows from the device to your phone. This doesn't mean that man in the middle attacks are impossible, especially if your phone is infected with malware, but overall, the risks are much smaller over a tethered connection.
Most mobile hotspots are vulnerable; often, they use less secure data encryption protocols, and some of them can be accessed without entering a password. And even if the smart phone owner actually takes the time to set up a password for his/her mobile hotspot, it is usually a very weak one, which can be easily and quickly broken through a dictionary-based brute force attack that will usually take less than a minute.
It goes without saying that most public hotspots that can be found in airports, coffee shops, libraries, and so on are vulnerable as well. Often, cyber criminals will even set up their own hotspots in public places, and then start collecting people's usernames and passwords, credit card details, and so on. So, be sure to avoid using public hotspots, no matter how legit and/or secure they may seem.
It is true that personal Wi-Fi hotspots are more convenient; they can be set up within seconds without requiring any additional equipment, and they can serve several network clients at the same time. On the other hand, regular tethering requires a standard USB cable and can only serve one device at a time, but it is much safer and needs less battery juice in comparison with a Wi-Fi hotspot. It is definitely something to keep in mind if smart phone battery life is very important to you.
One thing to note is that some mobile operators will do their best to prevent people from sharing their Internet connection with other devices. If this is the case, you should contact your mobile data provider and see if there is anything that you can do about it. Often, by paying a few more dollars per month, you will be allowed to share your mobile Internet connection with other devices as well.