hotel wifi security

Imagine yourself on a trip abroad. You go to a hotel, and while booking your room, you immediately fire up your Wi-Fi to find an open network.

You join the free Wi-Fi and log into your social accounts to update your status. In fact, you might also check your email and online bank accounts.

However, when you try to log into your online accounts again, you are shocked to see that you can’t access them at all.

That is what you get when you rely too much on hotel Wi-Fi security!

Why Do We Use Hotel Wi-Fi in the First Place?

Hotel Wi-Fi security is one of those essentialities that must be considered whenever you are traveling abroad. However, before discussing it in more detail, wouldn’t it be wise to talk about why we use such networks in the first place?

Well, it is a given that we are always inclined towards opportunities that are tagged with the label, “Free.”

Likewise, a free Wi-Fi is a delight for every Wi-Fi lover. In fact, according to a Wi-Fi Risk report by Norton, 46% of Wi-Fi consumers wouldn’t delay more than a minute or two to join an open Wi-Fi when they arrive at a hotel, café or any other destination.

Regardless, here are some of the common reasons why you might be inclined to join a hotel Wi-Fi.

Save Data Roaming Charges

As mentioned earlier, you would most probably go for a free Wi-Fi when given a chance rather than paying for each MB of data you use. Last month, a customer was shocked to find out that he had to pay data roaming bills racking up to £2,682 after returning home from a holiday with his partner.

Since you can’t limit your Internet usage regardless of wherever you are in the world, an open Wi-Fi is the only thing you count on.

Tend to Important Business Matters

You may need to join a hotel Wi-Fi connection to take care of some important business matters. For instance, you might need a continuous Internet connection so you can reply to your business emails, join web conferencing, or make online calls such as through Skype.

For such purposes, you may be inclined to use the Wi-Fi without thinking, “Is hotel Wi-Fi safe or not?”

Casual Use on a Leisure Trip

If you are on a leisure trip, you would want to connect to a hotel Wi-Fi for casual Internet use such as streaming, browsing the internet or checking social media. Moreover, you might also want to upload your photos or any other data on your cloud storage like Dropbox.

However, even for such casual use, you forget that you need to type in your account details to access them.

Stream Entertainment Channels

Live streaming of channels is yet another reason that would compel you to use hotel Wi-Fi. After all, who would want to miss out on their favorite TV shows, movies or sports regardless of where they are in the world?

In fact, according to the Wi-Fi Risks report, 20% users seek a strong Wi-Fi connection to access streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu, etc.

Why Aren't Hotel Wi-Fis Reliable & Why We Need to be Careful?

There is a contradictory thinking among most consumers when it comes to privacy and security on the internet. Although they claim to have a strong sense of privacy, they seem to relax when placed in tough situations.

According to the same report by Norton, 60% of consumers don’t see open Wi-Fi as a threat and feel safe when using it.

Nonetheless, there are a high number of risks that users may have to face when they don’t take hotel Wi-Fi security seriously.

Types of Hotel Wi-Fi Attacks

  • Replay Attack: These attacks involve re-showing the users’ authentication sessions so that the attackers can gain users’ private information.
  • Eavesdropping Attack: As the name suggests, the attacker can compromise the network or create a separate malicious network to read the data that is transmitted through the network. In fact, in some kinds of attack, the attacker can also interfere with the data transmission.
  • Traffic Analysis Attacks: This type of attack enables the attacker to listen in on the type of information being transmitted through the hotel Wi-Fi such as emails, conversations, etc.
  • Dictionary-building Attack: These attacks are aimed at specific targets (hotel Wi-Fi networks). Through a dictionary-building attack, the attacker tries to infiltrate a network by running a list of potential passwords.

But, Why Hotels are the Primary Targets?

  • In July 2017, ZDNet reported about a group of hackers, the DarkHotel group, which targeted the Wi-Fi networks of luxury hotels. The attackers specifically targeted business travelers by sending them high-level phishing emails.

The emails contained a downloadable .exe file that begins downloading the Trojan virus once executed.

  • Likewise, in August 2017, The Sun reported about holiday hackers who targeted the Wi-Fi networks of fancy European hotels. How did the attackers gain private information from the Wi-Fi users, you may wonder?

The attackers created fake or bogus Wi-Fi networks that lured in free Wi-Fi lovers. Once users access such fake networks, performing the rest of the hacking becomes easy for the attackers.

If you scour the Internet, you will come across dozens of similar cases happening around the globe. So, why hotels are the primary targets? It is because such spots are frequently visited by traveler and they usually don’t pay much attention to hotel Wi-Fi security or hotel Wi-Fi privacy.

How to Check Hotel Wi-Fi Security?

You may be wondering, “how to tell if a hotel’s Wi-Fi is safe or not?” Here are some steps you should take:

  • Don’t fall for open Wi-Fi networks that are named after the hotel. Instead, go straight to the front-desk and ask the concerned person if the hotel offers Wi-Fi or not.
  • Before joining the hotel Wi-Fi, make sure that the Wi-Fi is WPA2 protected. You can do that by going to the Wi-Fi property and security tab or field.
  • Another most important step you should try is accessing the Wi-Fi with an incorrect id or password. If the Wi-Fi gives you access even when you use incorrect details, it means that the connection is fake or rigged.

5 Practices that Help You Use Hotel Wi-Fi Securely

Now that you have made sure that your hotel Wi-Fi privacy or security is up to mark, here is some good Wi-Fi etiquette you must follow:

  • Always keep your device’s OS or browser up to date, so you don’t fall victim to vulnerabilities that are often exploited by hackers.
  • If you want to share personal photos or any other data online, make sure that you use websites that use the HTTPS encryption.
  • Setup two-factor authentication (TFA) wherever possible to minimize the chances of a hack.
  • When you are on an open or public Wi-Fi, it is important that you avoid accessing your online bank accounts.
  • If you are accessing the hotel Wi-Fi through your laptop, make sure that the file-sharing option is turned off. If it is turned on, the hacker might see a chance of compromising your device.

Why VPN is the Quickest Way to Get Protection

The above-listed practices may help you keep hackers or snoopers at bay, but not always! Hackers are cunning, and they always tend to find new ways to attack.

To keep attackers from compromising your device or your private information, you need a more robust security solution.

Here, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) Can Help You

A VPN such as PureVPN allows you to browse the Internet safely and securely. When you connect to a VPN, it makes the connection to the Wi-Fi network and the Internet secure via encryption. In other words, all the data that goes back and forth through the network is completely encrypted.

Also, you don’t have to hold back on using your online bank accounts or other websites when you are connected to a hotel Wi-Fi.

Wouter

An information security analyst in the making, a father of an adorable kid and a technology writer (Contributor). He can be found lurking around top network security blogs, looking for scoops on information security and privacy trends.

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