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Is it safe to use hotel Wi-Fi? Without a VPN you could be in serious danger

Free Wi-Fi, including free hotel Wi-Fi, or free wireless internet are not always secure, even with a password. Double-check the official name of the hotel's Wi-Fi as criminals often create fake hotspots to trick you. If in doubt, use a VPN to secure all Wi-Fi connections.

Lewis Lambert Fox Lewis Lambert Fox

Lewis Lambert Fox

Is it safe to use hotel Wi-Fi? Without a VPN you could be in serious danger

The hidden price of free public Wi-Fi

While free wireless Internet is nice to have while enjoying a double espresso in your favorite coffee shop, it comes as an absolute necessity when visiting foreign countries, both for business and leisure. In fact, many travelers consider free wireless Internet access more important than room service, good breakfast, or hotel’s location, according to a study.

No wonder that almost all hotels today provide hotel Wi-Fi access to their guests. However, the convenience of being able to browse the Internet for free while sunbathing by the hotel pool has its own price: your privacy.

Hotel Wi-Fi security – does it even exist?

Hotel Wi-Fi security is pretty lax, and the reason behind it is very simple: your hotel’s job is to offer you convenience and comfort, not cybersecurity. So typically, they put little to no effort in protecting their guest network.

In some cases, to start using hotel’s Wi-Fi, you’ll be asked to enter your room number and a password created for that particular room. However, most of the time the responsibility for the overall network security falls on the shoulders of one weak password, which is basically the same as having no password at all. Some hotels skip the authorization step entirely, allowing anyone to join their network.

The lack of simple protection and proper data encryption, along with the large number of potential victims, is precisely what makes wireless networks wide open to cyber attacks, identity theft, and data snooping.

The biggest threat to your privacy is the ability for a cyber criminal to insert themselves as a secret intermediary between your device and the connection point. In such case, any information that you send or receive over the Internet passes through the hacker.

Malicious actors, such as the infamous DarkHotel group, also like to use unsecured hotel Wi-Fi connections to distribute malware. This group has been successfully targeting business travelers for over a decade. By using hotel Wi-Fi in luxury hotels around the world, hackers distribute malicious files via phishing emails, created individually for each victim and tailored to be highly convincing.

So basically, each time you connect to an unsecured wireless network, you are putting your private data at risk of being exposed. If your hotel’s Wi-Fi is on a cyber criminal’s radar, they can use a variety of techniques to invade your privacy. This article lists the most common hacking methods and explains how hackers employ each of them to snoop on their victim and, steal their identities or sensitive business information. I strongly recommend to read it.

Is it safe to use hotel Wi-Fi for banking?

Absolutely not. If you connect to unsecured Wi-Fi, every step you take online can be monitored by malicious third parties, also known as hackers. As a consequence, anyone who manages to intercept an unprotected hotel Wi-Fi connection can snoop on you typing your passwords, login credentials, banking info, and other private information.

Having these details stolen doesn’t sound like the scenario of a dream vacation. So don’t even think about checking your bank account on hotel Wi-Fi, unless you are using reliable encryption tools to protect your data.

Do hotels monitor their hotel Wi-Fi?

It’s difficult to say whether or not hotels monitor their networks, but one thing is clear – it is possible to do so. You see, hotel servers aren’t unique – like other servers, they keep a log file of data transactions made by their users. Your browsing data (the IP addresses you contact, login/logout times, time spent on a website), as well as some of your personal details (name, surname, room number), is on that file, and therefore, available to access.

While your hotel’s management usually won't be able to see the contents of your communications, they can easily find out what websites you visit and how much time you spend browsing the Internet. Doesn’t sound like private browsing, does it?

Dangers of unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots

Here are a few potential threats of unsecured public Wi-Fi:

  • Stolen data. Hackers can steal your sensitive data and credentials by penetrating your device via unsecured public Wi-Fi.
  • Stalking. A person can trace your online activity by using unsecured public Wi-Fi.
  • Malware. A cybercriminal can infect your device with malware via unsecured public networks.

Is there a way to stay safe on your hotel’s Wi-Fi?

Since hotel Wi-Fi security is pretty much non-existent, it is up to you to protect yourself from any possible data thieves and random snoopers. Here’s how:

  • Be aware of potential risks. If the network is left unprotected, chances are some cyber criminal is lurking there to steal your private data.
  • Avoid logging into your work or online banking accounts, and use your mobile data for any financial transactions. It may be more expensive but will keep your money safe.
  • Never join a new network blindly. Hackers create rogue hotspots to trick users into thinking they are legitimate. If you see two similar Wi-Fi names, ask the hotel’s staff which is the real one.
  • Enable your firewall to stay out of trouble in case anyone attacks your hotel Wi-Fi network. A reliable firewall provides a strong gateway defense, which means trouble for criminals trying to access your system.
  • Encrypt your data. VPNs are simple encryption tools that can be used by anyone. It’s called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) – a technology that helps you stay safe even on unsecured wireless networks. It does so in two ways: by cloaking your IP address and encrypting your online communications. As soon as they are protected, nobody can monitor your online activity. You will have a secure and encrypted connection.
  • Don’t open any malicious links or attachments.
  • If a public Wi-Fi requires your personal details to connect, it’s better to provide fake information.

Online security starts with a click.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN

How can a VPN protect my data on hotel Wi-Fi?

In fact, a virtual private network (VPN) protects you far beyond unsecured Wi-Fi. If you have a VPN enabled, you can securely browse on a public or any other type of network.

A virtual private network creates an encrypted virtual tunnel between your device and a remote VPN server. This server acts as a middleman between the Internet and your system: the website interacts with the VPN server and the server communicates with your device. Since this interaction is encrypted, nobody can see which website you are browsing or what data you share online. All they can see is that you are using a VPN – that’s it.

If you want to know more about how a virtual private network (VPN) works, check out this comprehensive VPN connection guide. It will answer all of your questions.

Is hotel Wi-Fi safe?

Unfortunately, hotel Wi-Fi in your hotel room is not really safe. Hotel Wi-Fi spots are as unsafe as they are convenient. As mentioned before, hotel Wi-Fi spots are usually poorly secured and provide a fertile ground for cybercriminals.

We advise using them only with the proper protection to avoid possible dangers. A VPN ( virtual private network) is your best friend here. It will encrypt your traffic, and no one will be able to intercept it.

PRO TIP: Don't connect to unsecured hotel Wi-Fi unless you're protected with a VPN. Without a VPN, your data could be exposed.

Here’s why you need a VPN service for traveling

It is almost certain that the hotel room you are staying in uses an open Wi-Fi connection, making you highly vulnerable to snooping and data theft while you are using it. Therefore, a reliable VPN service comes as a lifesaver when you don’t want to use your mobile data but also don’t feel like exposing your private information. But did you know that VPNs can bring you more than security?

Here’s what you can do once you have the NordVPN app on your device:

  • Protect all your devices, because NordVPN allows connecting up to 6 devices under one account.
  • Enjoy Internet freedom. While some countries restrict access to selected websites, others ban entire social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Luckily, with VPN you can avoid those restrictions and keep access to the sites and services you want – no matter where you are in the world.
  • Block annoying ads. This one is useful at home and on the go. Nobody likes ads, and NordVPN's Threat Protection helps you see less of them. Plus, it will keep you safe from malware and other threats that are especially common on unsecured public networks.
  • Change your location in a second. You can make yourself virtually appear anywhere you want by simply tapping a pin on the map or a name in the country list. For anyone trying to track you, it will look like as if the connection is coming from that particular country.
  • Browse safely on your hotel’s Wi-Fi and on all public WiFi spots. NordVPN secures your internet traffic with powerful encryption protocols, protecting you from hackers and monitoring.

What many users like about NordVPN is that the robust security comes in the form of a simple and functional app, which you can download to your smartphone, computer, tablet or even a router. If you don’t have it yet, I’d suggest getting one right away – all the plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have plenty of time to feel the benefits of having a VPN on all the time.

Also available in: English and Português Brasileiro.

Lewis Lambert Fox
Lewis Lambert Fox Lewis Lambert Fox
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Lewis yra „NordVPN“ turinio rašytojas ir tikras kibernetinio saugumo tyrinėtojas. Jo misija – visada tyrinėti technologijų pasaulį per privatumo prizmę ir pasidalyti savo atradimais bei naudingais patarimais su tinklaraščio skaitytojais.