Airports and WiFi question

I was flying around the USA on Christmas with my new IPAD and as I had countless airport waits I connected to the WIFI at several airports. Apart from the airport WIFI network, many times I was shown a list of other possible WIFI connections, all of them with password protections.

These names of available networks would change every couple of minutes or so and I was wondering where they were coming from. They all had weird names. I suspected they were connections of people with cellphones… what exactly did this mean? Were they connecting through their personal telephone networks and thus showing up as wifi networks? Or were they simply connecting to the same airport WIFI network as I was and showing up on my list of possibles? Colour me confused.

I’m still just a poor Luddite who still uses a $20 Nokia dumb phone, so I’m not really the guy to ask, but do phones broadcast an SSID? I think they actually can—a cell phone can serve as an ad hoc WAP, if I understand it correctly. Could these also be Evil Twins roaming the airport? Are their connections encrypted?

Personal hot spots created by phones or other devices.

Were they connecting through their personal telephone networks and thus showing up as wifi networks?

Probably.

Or were they simply connecting to the same airport WIFI network as I was and showing up on my list of possibles?

No. Generally, at least on the three smartphones I’ve had, you cannot use your phone as a hotspot while you are connected to a WiFi network, only when you are using the carrier’s network.

do phones broadcast an SSID?

Yes, if they include hotspot functionality.

Also, note that a malicious person can set up a hotspot and if you connect to it, can capture all your unencrypted traffic. So beware of “Free WiFi” if you don’t really know who’s providing it.

That’s what I was alluding to above: