Theresa has been wary of using hotel wifi in the past, but with so many hotels now offering free wifi she is starting to wonder whether it might be safe.
I have steered clear of using hotel wifi in the past because I have been worried that it could lead to me being hacked. However, it seems that all hotels offer free wifi these days and I haven’t really heard any stories from friends or family who use the service that they have been hacked, so I am starting to rethink my policy. Is it safe to use hotel wifi and what do I need to do to make sure that my information is safe?
A. Caution is always a good policy when you are travelling and there are certainly stories out there from people who have been less than cautious and given away more information than they would have wanted.
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The appeal of free mobile data, especially if you are travelling overseas, is particularly strong, and while you might not have personally heard any horror stories they do exist.
However, things are getting better. Not so long ago, hotels put little to no effort in protecting their guest networks, with predictable results.
Now, depending on the hotel you are staying with, they put a little more effort into guest security.
If you are asked to enter your room number and a password created specifically for your particular room that should give you a bit more confidence in using the hotel system than if there is just one password for every guest in the hotel to use or if there is no authorisation and anyone can join the network.
According to NordVPN cybersecurity writer Lewis Lambert-Fox, the lack of proper data encryption and the large number of potential victims is what makes these wireless networks wide open to cyberattacks and identity theft.
“The biggest threat to your privacy is the ability for a cybercriminal to insert themselves as a secret intermediary between your device and the connection point,” he explains. “In such cases, any information that you send or receive over the internet passes through the hacker.”
There are also hacking groups who specifically target hotel groups, distributing malicious files via phishing emails that have been created individually for each victim and tailored to be highly convincing.
“Each time you connect to an unsecured wireless network, you are putting your private data at risk of being exposed,” Mr Lambert-Fox said.
“If your hotel’s wifi is on a cybercriminal’s radar, they can use a variety of techniques to invade your privacy.”
How to protect yourself if you use hotel wifi
You can sign up for the wifi but just use it for harmless activities, and then make sure that you sign out of the network if you want to use online banking or some other activity you would prefer to be 100 per cent secure.
It is also important if you are signing onto a hotel network that you don’t get tricked into using a rogue hotspot. Hackers sometimes created a lookalike network in an effort to trick guests into thinking they are legitimate. If you see two similar wifi names ask a member of staff for the exact wifi name you should be using.
If you have a strong and reliable firewall, this can also offer you some level of protection, just make sure that you have it enabled while you are using the hotel network.
Do you use the hotel wifi when you travel? Have you ever been hacked? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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