Logging on to free public Wi-Fi at a hotel might be one of the nicest things to do while traveling. Why would you want to run on your phone’s data when you have free hotel Wi-Fi, right? After all, your phone’s cellular data might be running low already, and it’s still some days before the next monthly cycle of fresh data. However, you might want to ask yourself this question; “Is it safe to use hotel Wi-Fi?”
Providing free Wi-Fi is part of a hotel’s marketing strategy to lure visitors. It’s not the hotel’s priority to provide top-class security in its Wi-Fi network. The pure presence of free Wi-Fi is enough to show visitors that the hotel offers additional service and to convince them to book a stay at the hotel.
Recommended reading: How to Make Hotel Wi-Fi Faster? (Ways to Speed Up Hotel Wi-Fi)
Unsurprisingly, most hotel Wi-Fi networks don’t offer good security; often, there is no security at all. Therefore, you must take extra caution when using hotel Wi-Fi. You should especially be cautious when using sensitive personal information.
Just like the nature of other public Wi-Fi networks, hotel Wi-Fi lacks the appropriate privacy measures. You can easily access the hotel’s Wi-Fi with no security controls. That means anybody in the hotel’s vicinity, including malicious hackers, can log in to the network and gain access to track internet traffic from hotel guests.
Your Phone Can Be Hacked Easily When Connected to Unsecure Hotel Wi-Fi Network
It may seem too convenient and simple to log into the hotel’s public Wi-Fi. Still, when you do that, you’re exposing your valuable personal data such as your name, ID, phone number, address, and worst, bank accounts/credit card information.
When you choose to connect your phone or other devices to the hotel Wi-Fi network, you’re giving everyone direct access to your device as soon as you start the connection.
Here are some examples of your personal data exposures when using hotel public Wi-Fi:
Credit Card Numbers
If you log into the hotel Wi-Fi and make an online purchase using your credit card, the hacker can intercept your data and steal your credit card information and credentials.
The hacker can also use another method by creating a false hotel Wi-Fi. Hotel guests may fall into thinking that the Wi-Fi is provided by the hotel and log in to do various online activities, including making credit card transactions. You’re giving all the sensitive private information to the hackers for all you know.
Bank Account Information
Just like how the hackers can get your credit card information when you shop online, they can also obtain your bank account information when you log into your bank website or app. The most important thing to remember is – you should not shop online or do banking activities when using hotel public Wi-Fi.
Other Online Activities
When logging into the hotel Wi-Fi, you may forget that all your online activities are not private. Again, the hackers can see and intercept whatever you do online using just some basic IT knowledge and technology.
Therefore, you shouldn’t visit hypersensitive websites, send critical emails, or watch inappropriate videos while on the hotel’s Wi-Fi. You never know; those hackers might be at your back.
Did you know that it’s as easy for hackers to obtain your login credentials as usernames and passwords? They can easily intercept your activities and snatch your credentials using basic hacking techniques. They can use the stolen credentials to log in to your favorite online portals or apps.
Some advanced malicious hackers send malware to your phone or other Wi-Fi-connected devices instead of trying to intercept your data traffic and steal your personal information.
In addition, hackers can also deceive you into downloading a malicious file or clicking on a mischievous link. When you do so, your data and sensitive private information are in the hands of those hackers.
Every problem has a solution – so does internet safety when using the hotel Wi-Fi or any other public Wi-Fi. Here are a few steps you can follow to stay safe while using public hotel Wi-Fi:
Make sure you don’t connect to a fake hotspot created by hackers to trap you into logging in. Once you log into the fake network, hackers will gain access to your personal information, including login credentials to various accounts and credit card/banking information.
Connecting to a Fake Hotspot Will Expose Your Data to Hackers
Before you join a public hotel Wi-Fi, read the network name (SSID) carefully. A network name that seems too plain, like “Hotel Free Hotspot” can be tantamount to a bogus Wi-Fi network set up by hackers. The best precaution is to ask the hotel front desk if the network is legitimate.
Turn Off File Sharing Option
Did you know that you can set up some safety features on your computer while using the public hotel Wi-Fi? One important feature is to disable file sharing so that there is no way anyone can share or transfer files from and to your computer. Follow these steps to turn off file sharing in Windows:
- Go to the Control panel app.
- Choose Network and Internet.
- Pick up Network and Sharing Center.
- Click on Change Advanced Sharing Settings from the menu on the left.
- Under File and printer sharing, check the box that says “Turn off file and printer sharing”.
- No one can share files on your computer anymore for safety when it is set up.
How to Disable/Enable File Sharing in Windows 10
Don’t Enter Personal Information
Once you’re inside a free hotel Wi-Fi, you may encounter numerous sites and ads luring you to buy or enter your sensitive personal information, such as credit card or bank account information. The temptations could make you forget about your personal data security and conveniently transact online using the hotel Wi-Fi.
However, it’s best if you can always stay away from doing transactions on public Wi-Fi. If you really need to transact online, use your phone’s data to do it.
Use a VPN
Yes, using a VPN to join a hotel Wi-Fi can protect you from intruders and malicious hackers. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, and you can set up a protected network connection on a hotel Wi-Fi.
When using a VPN, your presence on a public network like the hotel Wi-Fi is disguised, and no one will know your identity, including hackers. It’s possible because a VPN encrypts your online data and traffic.
Why You Should Use VPN when Connected to Hotel Wi-Fi?
Q: Does hotel Wi-Fi share my personal information?
A: Yes, most of the time, the hotel Wi-Fi will not disguise the personal information and credentials that you enter. In addition, your other online activities are also easily traceable.
Q: When I’m on the hotel Wi-Fi, is it safe to watch an account-operated movie app like Netflix?
A: Generally, it’s pretty safe to watch Netflix or similar online TVs. However, hackers can still steal your credentials, like username and password. It’s safer, though, if you have a more complex and longer password.
Q: Would it be safe to use the hotel Wi-Fi if it’s password-protected?
A: No, it’s not safe to use the hotel Wi-Fi or any other public Wi-Fi even though you need to use the password to connect to the network. After all, the password is known to all hotel guests, and once you join the Wi-Fi, anyone can trace your online activity pretty easily.
Q: Do hotels monitor their Wi-Fi users?
A: No, typically, hotels won’t monitor their Wi-Fi users or their online activities, but they can do so pretty easily if they want to. Although it’s not easy to see your communications and traffic contents, the hotel can still manage to find out your browsing history (and how long you stay on a site). But that’s enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
If you have a question about whether it’s safe to use hotel Wi-Fi, the next time you travel and stay in a hotel, join the hotel Wi-Fi only for leisurely online activities. It’s still okay to watch YouTube or play games using the hotel Wi-Fi, but you should log in via a VPN if you want to do more.
Hackers can trace and steal your sensitive private information, such as your bank and credit card information and credentials. But, if you use a VPN, it will disguise your online traffic and information in safe encryptions.
Hey, I’m Jeremy Clifford. I hold a bachelor’s degree in information systems, and I’m a certified network specialist. I worked for several internet providers in LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle over the past 21 years.
I worked as a customer service operator, field technician, network engineer, and network specialist. During my career in networking, I’ve come across numerous modems, gateways, routers, and other networking hardware. I’ve installed network equipment, fixed it, designed and administrated networks, etc.
Networking is my passion, and I’m eager to share everything I know with you. On this website, you can read my modem and router reviews, as well as various how-to guides designed to help you solve your network problems. I want to liberate you from the fear that most users feel when they have to deal with modem and router settings.
My favorite free-time activities are gaming, movie-watching, and cooking. I also enjoy fishing, although I’m not good at it. What I’m good at is annoying David when we are fishing together. Apparently, you’re not supposed to talk or laugh while fishing – it scares the fishes.