From Portal to Hotspots

By Eric Griffith

January 28, 2004

The European arm of Lycos is taking on the role of secure hotspot aggregator.

Once upon a time the world of Internet portals and search engines was a battleground with many players -- at least until Yahoo! and Google pretty much usurped them all. That's forced companies like Terra Lycos of Waltham, Mass., to constantly find new ways to reinvent themselves. The latest move by Lycos -- specifically the European arm of the company -- is to become a Wi-Fi hotspot provider.

Lycos is working on this launch with San Francisco-based Perfigo, which makes security solutions for wireless networks mainly for vertical markets like higher education. Lycos Europe will piggyback on other networks and subscribers will use a Perfigo-provided client to find and connect to hotspots.

"We are not using a specific network since we (for the moment) are not offering a WISP but rather a very advanced hotspot finder," says Juergen Galler, the vice president of Lycos Europe, of the service, called Lycos WLAN Sniffer. They'll include all the hotspots they know of in Germany, where the program will initially launch. Eventually, they hope the WISPs will provide regular updates to the Lycos database of hotspots. The software will create a secure connection between the Windows-based laptop and the access point. Later in the year, Perfigo's CleanMachines system will be implemented for more protection. CleanMachines will scan devices and block from the network any that are vulnerable to attack or infected by viruses.

"When you open your laptop it looks for access points in the area, [and] will highlight partner services and auto-connect you as needed," says Perfigo CEO Arvin Babu.

For now, the access to hotspots via the Perfigo client will be free, though that will likely change down the road. The client software will display advertising to offset costs. Intel is also helping sponsor the program with promotional efforts. The client can be downloaded directly on the German main page of Lycos Europe.

Babu says the WLAN Sniffer program will eventually be available throughout all of Europe. It will be up to parent company Terra Lycos whether it comes to North America or other regions.

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