When Disney executives polled more than 10,000 hotel guests about which amenities they would most like to see added to all Disney hotels, free WiFi connectivity topped guests’ wishlists.
So crews rewired the resort’s hotels — including the cabins in Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground — and completed the work last month. While it may seem like a magical perk to hotel guests, real privacy dangers lurk in the background.
According to The Baltimore Sun:
More than 10,000 recent hotel guests — both domestic and international — were surveyed and used to distill a list of more than 100 potential amenities to a core 32 items, which were then pitted against one another and prioritized.
Though some of Disney’s convention-oriented hotels already offered some Wi-Fi access — for a fee — the surveys showed people wanted it available in their rooms. And they didn’t think they should have to pay extra for it.
The research “helped us prioritize our thinking,” said Mark Rucker, vice president of lodging for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
The downside to free WiFi at Disney (or anywhere else, for that matter) is that wireless Internet connections are inherently insecure.
Even in the privacy of your room, using the hotel’s wireless network is not safe. It is a public network, and everything you do on it can be seen by others. There could also be rogue networks set up by hackers nearby to trick you into revealing your personal information. Even the hotel’s wired network doesn’t protect your online privacy.
More disturbing is the fact that 38% of all credit-card hacking involves hotels.
CreditDonkey.com, a credit-card comparison site, says this figure outnumbers the incidents of credit card fraud at restaurants/bars (13%), retail stores (14.2%), and the financial sector (19%). CreditDonkey says that, in one 3-month-long hacking incident, credit card information was stolen from 700 hotel guests, resulting in losses averaging from $2,000 to $3,000 per credit card account. Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey, called it “foolish” to think our electronic data is safe.
Below are some steps you can take to minimize these risks before your next hotel stay:
- Disable or block file sharing.
- Enable a Windows Firewall or install a third-party personal firewall.
- Use file encryption.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) like Private WiFi to encrypt all your Internet communication from being intercepted by others.
Mickey and Minnie may not warn about using a personal VPN, but many others do. This includes the National Security Agency, the Wi-Fi Alliance, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and many others.
The bottom line is that you can’t rely on hotels (or any other WiFi provider) to protect you. You need to protect yourself.