How safe is hotel WiFi?
execMobile offers essential advice to travellers before the holiday season.
Public WiFi isn't safe and, without the right protection, your personal information could become public. Unfortunately, hotel WiFi networks are no safer than other public WiFi and should be treated with the same caution. More alarmingly, recent reports have revealed that hotel WiFi networks are being targeted because of the high-value information accessible on the laptops of people travelling for work.
What is alarming about last week's massive hack of the Marriott International hotel group was that investigators suspect multiple hacking groups may have been inside Marriott's computer networks since 2014 (Reuters quoted one of the sources as saying)! This follows a recent report explaining that communal WiFi used by hotel chains is particularly vulnerable to hackers.
Public WiFi is unsecured; this means data you transmit or receive is unprotected. Anybody on the same network could spy on your information if they have the know-how.
If you do decide to use public WiFi, be careful about the types of sites you visit.
It's safest not to log in to any sites that require a password, because hackers could be using software kits to capture yours. Avoid any websites that hold any of your sensitive information, like banking sites or transactional sites on which you store credit card information.
If you must use the WiFi at your hotel, you can protect yourself by using virtual private network (VPN) software. Even if the network you're connecting to has been compromised by malware, sniffers, or some other tactic, if you use a VPN, all the attackers can see is encoded and encrypted versions of what you're doing. They can't intercept it, can't read it, and can't capture the private information you transmit.
As an alternative, when you need to bank, buy or browse securely, rather use a cellular connection. Using a local or travel SIM in your phone (as a hotspot), or a separate mobile WiFi router is much more secure. It also provides mobility, allowing you to connect on the go for essential travel services such as Google Maps, Uber, etc.
Sunscreen, caution and maybe a travel SIM or PocketWiFi = happy holidays.