For two years, we’ve been telling you about the dangers of using hotel Wifi hotspots: How easily you could get hacked by a cybercriminal sitting in the hotel lobby, the parking lot or even in the room next door. But now that warning is being sounded by hotel hacking victims themselves in two posts on tripadvisor.com. Their message is loud and clear: “Wifi users beware! You will get hacked!”
Hotel Hotspot Hacking Stories Prove It Could Happen to You
That’s what a young woman named Gitte found out this spring when she checked into a Paris hotel with her new computer. For four days, Gitte naively used the hotel’s Wifi hotspot until she made a horrifying discovery. “My laptop was hacked by international criminals, which made my Windows act weird,” Gitte wrote. Norton’s Internet Security software that was installed on her computer became inaccessible. She began getting pop-up windows saying: “Autofix: Open Support Website,” which were clearly fake.
Terrified, Gitte immediately shut down her computer and called her bank to block access to her online account. After returning home, she got online with Symantec which uninstalled and reinstalled her antivirus software. But when Gitte ran a complete virus scan, she got another shock. A warning appeared half-way through the scan which said: “Deeply rooted crimeware has been detected.”
That led Gitte to get back in touch with Symantec. That’s when she got more bad news. Symantec’s tech support rep told her there were thousands of unique threats being generated every day. So it was possible that Gitte had come into contact with a threat that Norton didn’t yet recognize. Even worse, she was told that some malware is designed to specifically disable Norton’s antivirus software. Trojans and worms have to be manually removed. This was all news to Gitte who thought her online privacy and her laptop were protected at Wifi hotspots. This is what she took away from her hotel hotspot hacking experience:
“I have to agree that the problem is not the hotel, but trusting an internet connection that is not secure without reliable protection, which is the case with many hotels, cafes, parks, airports and other places.”
In case you think hotel hotspot hacking is only happening abroad, a guest at one of the largest hotel chains in the U.S. posted this Wifi hacking story on tripadvisor.com. “My email was hacked on Saturday evening while we went to dinner,” the hotspot user wrote. “I left my laptop in the room on their hotel Wifi to install Windows updates. When we returned my email was hacked and contacts spammed.” When the hacking victim contacted the hotel’s general manager, he got another shock:
“She told me it could not have happened as they have safeguards and secure Wifi. I tried to explain they did not have secure Wifi. But she got very belligerent. What a shame. It ruined an otherwise OK stay.”
Don’t Leave the Door Wide Open to Hackers at Hotel Hotspots
We agree. Hotel Wifi networks are inherently unsafe. It’s a shame that hotel guests are getting hacked every day at hotel hotspots around the world. But it doesn’t have to happen to you. You always lock your door before leaving home for a business or a pleasure trip. So why would you leave your hotel Wifi connection wide open to cybercriminals? Check out our blog posts to find out how to stay safe on hotel Wifi hotspots:
And make sure you use a virtual private network like PRIVATE WiFi™ every time you connect to a hotel hotspot. Secure VPNs encrypt the information going to and from your laptop which makes it invisible to hackers. Remember, hotspots are public. That’s why you need PRIVATE WiFi to protect your online privacy.