Yesterday reports seemed to fly in everywhere that there was a problem with the iOS 6 firmware and connecting to a Wi-Fi network. Fortunately it appears that this problem isn’t actually to do with the iOS 6 firmware itself, but rather an internal Apple web page that was down. You see, iOS checks an internal Apple web page to make sure the Wi-Fi network you are connected to doesn’t require you to login. For some reason yesterday this web page went down and thus numerous people could not connect to the internet on their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.
Robert David Graham of Errata Security noticed a lot of people were commenting on this, but he has went a step further and explained the root cause of the problem.
When an Apple iOS device connects to a WiFi network, the first thing it does is make a request to the URL http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html.The purpose of this request is to discover if there is a “captive portal” in the way. A captive portal is when, after connecting to the WiFi, any web request you makes gets redirected to a login/ToS page. In order to continue, you must either login with a username/password (or sign up, then login), and/or access the Terms of Service.
The reason why this is necessary in the first place is because if you are using say the Mail app and a captive portal is detected, you would not understand why your emails are not fetching. This scenario is further elaborated on by Graham.
The reason Apple does this is because you may be using an app other than the web browser. For example, the only thing you might be doing is syncing your e-mail. In such situations, you would never see the portal page, and your app will mysteriously fail to connect to the Internet.
Therefore, before your app has a chance to access the network, Apple does this for you. It sends out a request to the above URL. If the request gets redirected, then Apple knows there is a portal. It then launches a dialog box, containing Safari, to give you a chance to login.
The good news is that Apple has reportedly fixed the issue now, and everything should be working like usual. In the rare case that you are still experiencing issues however, we have a couple of solutions for you.
- Renew Lease: Launch the Settings app, go into the Wi-Fi tab, tap on the blue arrow next to the Wi-Fi network you are connected to and slide your finger to the bottom of the screen until you see the Renew Lease button. Tap this button now, followed by the Renew Lease? button that will pop up and then launch Safari and see if you can browse the internet.
- Reset Network Settings: Launch the Settings app, go into the General tab, followed by the Reset tab and tap on the Reset Network Settings button. When you do this another tap on the red Reset Network Settings button that will pop up and wait for the process to complete itself. Launch Safari and see if you can browse the internet.
Do you have another solution? Still have questions? The comments section is at your disposal.