When we check into our hotel room, one of the first things we typically ask is the WiFi password. However, logging onto the hotel’s internet may not be as harmless as it appears. Often lacking adequate security controls and privacy measures, it becomes an attractive target for cybercriminals seeking to steal your information. This doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid every time you use hotel WiFi.
Instead, there are a few actions you can take to ensure your safety and protect your information while traveling.
Is It Safe to Use Hotel Wi-Fi?
A nice perk is having free Wi-Fi in your hotel room. However, using hotel Wi-Fi for browsing, working, banking, or shopping can expose you to serious risks. Security researchers tested Wi-Fi hacking in 45 locations across five countries in 2019, and not a single hotel passed the test. Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t improved in recent years.
Cyber attacks commonly target hotels, making them the third most frequent victim, accounting for 13% of all cyber compromises in 2020. If your data was leaked during a data breach or is circulating on the Dark Web, it may have come from an unsafe hotel connection.
Main Online Threats When Connecting to Wi-Fi in Hotels
Hotel Wi-Fi security is incredibly weak, making it one of the least reliable types of public Wi-Fi. The FBI even issued a public service announcement advising guests not to trust that the hotel has properly secured their network or is monitoring it for attacks.
When you use hotel Wi-Fi, you face various risks, such as identity theft, bank account theft, stolen credit card information, business email compromise (BEC), hacked accounts, stalking, blackmail, malware, and spear phishing. Hackers can easily snoop on your online activity, collect sensitive information, and even install malware on your device. It’s crucial to be cautious and take necessary precautions when using hotel Wi-Fi.
How to Increase Your Security When Using Wi-Fi Networks in Hotels?
When using public Wi-Fi during your travels, there are several tips you should remember to protect your data and devices as much as possible:
- Firstly, select the most secure settings on your PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. Turn off any features that automatically connect your device to available Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, disable your Bluetooth unless necessary.
- Use a VPN. To securely publish the internet over public Wi-Fi networks, you need a VPN. It encrypts data and prevents hacking attacks. You can also use PPTP VPN to fool hackers and streaming services. VeePN has everything for these purposes: 2000+ servers, protection against IP and DNS address leaks, and bank-grade encryption.
- Before traveling, change your passwords. If you anticipate logging into accounts with sensitive information, switch to new and complex passwords before your departure, and revert to your original passwords upon returning home.
- Ensure that your software and apps are up to date. Often, software updates are released to address newly discovered vulnerabilities.
- Avoid logging into online accounts that store your sensitive information. This includes retail websites, health provider sites, banks, financial institution sites, email, and social media.
- If you do browse the internet, verify that the URL of the website you’re visiting begins with “HTTPS” as the “S” represents secure transmission, indicating encrypted data.
- Turn off file sharing and Bluetooth. When you’re connected to a trusted network, your device’s file-sharing feature proves helpful. However, if the network gets infiltrated by hackers, they gain access to all your shared files. Additionally, they might exploit your device’s automatic downloads to transmit malware. Similarly, compromised Bluetooth devices serve as tools for hackers to breach your computer or phone when you connect with them.
A less convenient option, but it still exists and needs to be mentioned, is to use the mobile Internet. If you have the option, this is a safer approach. To access the internet in your hotel room securely, use your phone’s encrypted 3G, 4G, or 5G data connection. Alternatively, you can utilize a password-protected mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, which is more secure than public networks but not as safe as a direct device connection to Wi-Fi.
Cybercriminals may not prioritize hotels over hedge funds, banks, and oil companies, but the truth is that cybercrime is on the rise across various industries, including hospitality.
The increase in attacks on businesses worldwide has been a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Verizon Payment Security Report highlights the challenges faced by the hospitality industry in terms of security, particularly related to the payment card industry (PCI) or credit cards. With the combination of weak security measures and the surge in cyber attacks, the entire hospitality industry is at risk.
So, while cyber criminals may not specifically target individuals, hotels are attractive targets for widespread cyber crime travelers, especially those that cater to business. According to a recent report by PwC Hotels Outlook, the hospitality industry experiences the second-highest number of cybersecurity breaches, right after the retail industry.
In addition, a study conducted by IntSights revealed 13 significant data breaches in the past three years alone. However, you can avoid being part of this sad statistic if you adhere to safety measures.