How to protect your data when using hotel WiFi

How to protect your data when using hotel WiFi

By Mike Ianiri, Equinox 

When you are travelling on business, a hotel stay is often inevitable – and this usually means accessing the hotel WiFi to stay in touch via email etc.

The hotel industry is one of the top sectors to suffer data breaches – it’s a cyber criminal’s dream with the amount of information hotels can hold about you.

Once you arrive at the hotel, you connect to the WiFi network and are required to enter personal details. Where does this data get collected? Most Guest WiFI access has a software that sits behind the access points and stores all this information. The repercussions, if a cybercriminal gains access to the backend, can be very serious.

What can you do to protect yourself when you need to access hotel and other public WiFi spots?

Tethering

Public WiFi networks are rarely secure. We recommend, wherever possible, to connect to the internet via your mobile phone. Use your data allowance, and the security built into your phone, instead of a public network. Mobile data is becoming cheaper and cheaper:

  • Vodafone has a 20Gb data SIM only contract for £20 per month
  • O2 are selling 32Gb of data for £26 per month

 

The only issue comes when you cannot get a decent signal.

Use a VPN connection

If you cannot get a secure internet connection, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection is the next best thing. This allows you to connect to your company network by creating a secure “tunnel” between your laptop and your network. This stops others from accessing your data.

To create a VPN, talk to your IT department. They are likely to have their preferred software application for this, or if you want to use the Windows VPN tool, you will need to know the names and IP addresses of the server(s) you want to connect to.

RFID Shield Wallets

Public places, including hotels, are hunting grounds for thieves looking for card data. They can easily steal your card information by skimming. With near-field communication (NFC) technology, they don’t have to get hold of the card anymore; simply get close to it.  Passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) protection comes in the form of a shield (credit card sized) that slides into your wallet next to your cards or there are now wallets with this tech built in. More active solutions, using other radio frequencies, will actively block the signal used by skimmers.

Keep yourself invisible

When you do log into a public WiFi, it will sometimes ask you if you wish to be discovered, or visible, to others on the network. Always say No. Also, turn off file and print sharing so no one can send or receive files from you across the WiFi.

 

Don’t leave your devices

You’re in a hotel, or café, and you need the loo don’t take the risk of leaving your devices unattended. Take them with you. It is inconvenient, but it’s far less inconvenient that explaining to your boss that there’s been a data breach and they have to report it to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) within 72 hours.

 

GDPR and data security have only made it more important to protect your data. However, the biggest issue is not the paperwork or the fines; it’s the loss of your company’s intellectual property and the loss of trust from your clients that will be the most painful.  Use the steps above to keep your data safe and you can have a worry-free trip. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Ianiri is Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Mike works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business.  www.equinoxcomms.co.uk

Twitter: @CommsEquinox

 

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