But while consumers are demanding a great hotel WiFi experience, most either don’t know or don’t care about the risks to their online security. A study conducted this summer by Bitdefender revealed that 85% of those surveyed choose to connect to a free WiFi hotspot despite clear warnings that their data can be viewed and accessed by a third party.
How Hotel WiFi Hackers Pull Your Information Out Of Thin Air
A hacker anywhere in a hotel can use sniffer software to steal session cookies from social networking, email and online banking and online shopping accounts during an open session. Or he can set up a fake hotspot with a generic name like “Hotel WiFi.” The hacker can even charge a fee to use his bogus hotspot. Once a user connects to it with his laptop or mobile device, he’s connecting to the Internet through the hacker’s computer. That means everything the user does online can be captured – including user names, passwords, and bank account and credit card account numbers.
Here’s what happened to three guests whose email accounts were hacked at hotel hotspots:
“Twice now I’ve had my email account hacked and used to send out spam to everyone in my address book. Both times it happened shortly after I’d stayed at hotels and read emails there … is there a connection or is this just a coincidence?”
“I’m in a hotel in Nigeria and 24 hours after arriving our Ebay account has been attacked, the password doesn’t work (also on my Google Chrome login) and I’ve received a dodgy email, which invites me to click on some links, which I WON’T be doing. Is this just coincidental with me arriving here …?”
“I run a tight network ship at home for the family. We just got back from four days on the road, including two nights at a hotel. We used the hotel wifi to keep connected, including my wife checking her Gmail account via our iPad. Upon our return, my wife found a warning from Gmail that somebody from China had attempted to login to her account. This was confirmed by looking at the login details in her Gmail account … Just a reminder to all, never use hotel wifi to login to any account that you value!”
Hotspot Users Don’t Know How to Protect Their Information
It’s bad enough that travelers continue to ignore the risks to their online security when they use hotel hotspots. Even worse, many don’t know there’s a solution. A 2012 Public Wi-Fi Usage Survey conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center with PRIVATE WiFi found that 44% of those surveyed said they either did not know or did not believe there was a way to protect their data when using a WiFi hotspot.
When you’re logging into a hotel hotspot or any other hotspot, using a virtual private network is the best way to protect your information from the prying eyes of cybercrooks. A VPN creates a secure private network by encrypting your wireless data – not just in your hotel room, but in the lobby, the bar, and even by the pool.
Remember, hotels may be racing to upgrade their WiFi service. But they’re doing nothing to protect your online security when you’re using their hotspots. That’s up to you.
Check out our earlier blog posts for more tips about how you can safeguard your sensitive information at hotel hotspots.