The dangers of using public WiFi are well-documented and well-known, but some versions are a little more insidious than others.
When you stay at a hotel overnight or over several nights, you’re putting a lot of faith in the hands of strangers. You trust that the hotel will keep you physically safe as you sleep; you often trust them to feed you, and in some cases, you trust they will wake you when you need to be woken. So, for some, assuming that where you are staying has taken basic steps to provide you with hotel WiFi privacy is just another extension of that trust.
But, as we find out, time and again, trusting hotel WiFi is incredibly ill-advised, and we’re going to tell you what to look out for and how you can maintain hotel WiFi privacy, something that should surely be an Internet priority.
The Dangers of Hotel WiFi
1. Commonly Used Hotel Routers Have Massive Vulnerabilities
We’re talking about the InnGate routers manufactured by ANTLabs. A security firm called Cylance issued a security warning about Hotel WiFi devices, saying that there’s a major security vulnerability that could allow a hacker to access the hotel’s Property Management system. This would allow the hacker access to guest’s credit cards, room keys, and even the temperature controls of the room in which he or she is staying.
Moreover, if you, as a guest, sign into the hotel’s WiFi, you’re opening yourself up to a world of hurt. That same vulnerability would allow a cyber-criminal to access your device, view your banking information, e-mails, potentially download malware, the list goes on.
ANTLabs has issued a patch for the InnGate routers, but it’s really up to the hotels (in this case, 8 of the top 10 hotel chains in the world, who have gone unnamed) to actually apply it, and security experts are skeptical that they will.
2. Attacks on Hotels Business Centers
The Department of Homeland Security issued an alert last year, warning travelers to be mindful of the risks associated with hotel business center computers.
Apparently, the maneuver goes like this: a hacker checks into a hotel, uses the business center computer, installs what is usually keylogger malware via an USB drive, and then rakes in all of the usernames and passwords as the malware captures keystrokes and sends them back to the hacker.
Again, as the Main Street article linked to above points out, hotels are unlikely to fix these gaping security holes, as the installation of a business center is a sort of afterthought to their daily operations.
3. Specific Attacks on Traveling Executives
For those of you who have forgotten (or never heard of it), Darkhotel is malware deployed by hackers targeting high-profile hotel guests. To make things even scarier, the attacks appear to be based around people in the defense industry from countries with nuclear capabilities such as India, Japan, and North Korea.
Evidently, this crew of hackers had been active for about seven years before they became aware that security experts had discovered them, at which point they shut down. Though this particular group may have gone silent for the time being, it’s certainly a disturbing method of attack, and who knows if we’ll see more like them in the future.
What You Can Do to Maintain Hotel WiFi Privacy
For the time being, it would seem we have to rely on ourselves to keep our vulnerable information safe when we’re in hotels, because no one else is going to do it. So let’s start with:
1. Don’t Use Hotel WiFi
That’s the simplest answer. Just do not log into the free WiFi at a hotel. Get yourself a mobile hotspot if you’re in the road and need the WiFi, but relying on hotel WiFi is a way to put all of your sensitive information at risk.
2. If You Must Use Hotel WiFi, Get Yourself a VPN
Next thing you can do – and really, this is something you should do whether you intend to use hotel WiFi or not – is get yourself subscribed to a top-notch VPN.
If you want all of your online information encrypted and out of the reach of hackers, get yourself a VPN. We at FlashRouters are affiliated with a number of the best VPNs available, so check out our official supported provider list right away including the huge amount of servers of PureVPN or the tier-1 speeds of IPVanish. Enjoy an airtight network and the freedom to roam the internet without geographical restrictions, thanks to your VPN.
We have a recent best-sellers VPN and Router list to let you know which ones our customers have been especially fond of. We recommend checking it out.
3. Use Hotel WiFi, So Long As You Don’t Enter Any Passwords
Again, total abstinence or a VPN are stronger solutions, but so long as you don’t find yourself entering your banking username and password, checking your e-mail, or doing anything else that requires log-in info, you should be okay. If you have entered any sensitive information while on the road and using hotel WiFi in recent memory, we recommend changing those passwords.