Whether traveling for business or going on a vacation, many travelers face the same dilemma. Is the hotel wifi safe to use? It’s easy to connect to and free, so what’s the worst that could happen? Let’s find out.
Hotels focus on hospitality, not network security.
When the average consumer stays at a hotel, do you think their first concern is the security of the provided wireless internet? No. More likely, they may wonder whether or not internet is provided in general. If it is, that’s a plus, and the end of thinking about hotel wifi.
Further, the main concerns of hotel staff and management is to provide the best stay possible for the guest, not securing the wifi (even though it should be considered).
Now, let’s take a look at the areas of concern regarding hotel wifi, and how to protect your devices and information when you are on the go.
Risks of Hotel Wifi
To begin, several ways exist as to how attackers can target hotel guests. One is simply creating a wifi connection that has the same name as the hotel’s actual network title. This tactic tricks guests into logging on to a malicious network. Attackers can then gain access to your device and anything you log into while using that connection.
To avoid falling victim to an attack similar to this, always confirm the legitimate wifi name with staff at check in. This can prevent any confusion regarding which wifi network to choose.
Another risk regarding hotel wifi is the security of the actual network. Even is the network is password protected, that isn’t always enough to protect the user.
For example, when hotel wifi is not properly secured, anyone else sitting on the network can view your online activity or access your personal information. The password may provide minimal protection, but the actual network security may not be up to par.
To combat this risk, users can take several steps. One, check that HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol) is running on your browser. This encrypts data and network traffic between the user and the site visited. This ensures and data transmitted between the user and the site is secure. In this day in age, HTTPS is most likely automatically enabled for users.
Using a VPN
Two, users have the option to use a VPN (virtual private network). This allows your connection to be encrypted and protect you online activity from outsiders.
The third and probably the most basic security measure is to not browse sites where you must login. This could include online banking, social media or any other accounts that store personal information.
When browsing the bare minimum, like looking up a restaurant for dinner, this does not give up any personal information. If you must log on to your banking or another site, either use your cell phone data, or just wait until you are on a secure network connection.
Staying Up to Date
The last and probably most common security risk regarding hotel network security is maintenance. As previously mentioned, the main concern of the hotel is taking care of the guest. This means, getting them checked in or taking care of other requests.
Network security and internet maintenance is not their specialty. This opens up the realm of keeping up with updates and other technical duties on the network.
For example, are the hotel routers up to date? Have the latest security bugs been patched? These are great questions to consider when you are logging onto a hotel network.
But, as previously stated, checking for encryption, using a VPN or just taking caution with what you access online are great steps to protect your information.
Next time you are traveling…
Now, does this mean that hotel guests should never use the wifi? No, of course not. The takeaway here is that you should use the wifi smarter. This means taking the time to consider the risk of public wifi, and then acting accordingly. This can mean firing up your VPN, or keeping browsing light until you get home.
All in all, the goal of this article is to bring awareness to the security threat of public / hotel wifi. And now, guests and the public in general have a better understanding of how to protect their information online.
By Taylor Ritchey