Today, almost all hotels offer free WiFi to their residents, as it is one of our top must-haves while traveling.
When you connect to a WiFi network, you're usually required to enter information like the room you're staying in and the password that has been provided for your particular room.
Smaller hotels tend to have one password for all the rooms.
More often than not, an authentication step is completely avoided, making the Internet connection completely open.
In other words, it's kind of like passing around your iPhone to group of strangers and letting them see your photos.
Even if an authentication step is put into place, the connection can easily be intercepted and breached.
What does this mean?
One word: hackers.
Since hotels usually have a lot of people staying in their rooms at any given time, this makes you vulnerable to data snooping or serious hacking by someone else at the hotel.
So, how safe is hotel WiFi?
Well, hotel WiFi security is pretty lame. The fact that hotels use open WiFi connections makes them really susceptible to attacks like identity theft and data snooping.
Anyone can monitor your Internet activity when you're using an open network.
Someone doesn't even have to be an awesome hacker to snoop around your Internet activity. There are softwares like Wireshark that make it absolutely easy to spy on someone’s Internet activity on an unsecured network.
For example, your ex.
The underlying issue is open networks -- like what hotel WiFi is -- do not use any kind of encryption for the data you receive and send over the Internet.
For my geeks out there, the problem is this: Most websites on open networks do not use secure protocols or an https URL, which makes monitoring one’s activity on these websites a piece of cake.
Facebook knows what's up. You'll see an https at the beginning of the URL on your browser.
The same goes for YouTube, Gmail and Amazon.
But don't get too happy. If you slip up and go to a website that doesn't have a secure protocol, sending sensitive information over such Internet connections is the recipe for disaster. Anyone can intercept and read that sensitive information.
So, how do you protect yourself?
Since hotel WiFi security is pretty much non-existent, it's up to you to protect yourself from possible data snoopers. Hotels don't give a f*ck.
FYI: All of this doesn't just apply to hotel WiFi, either. These security issues apply to any location that offers free WiFi on an open network, including Starbucks.
There is a simple encryption method that can be used by anyone. It's called a VPN.
VPNs (or Virtual Private Networks) connect you to the Internet through encrypted tunnels.
I use NordVPN .
The way a VPN works is pretty simple, but it's also a bit tricky to explain.
Basically, a connection between your system and any website is established via an alternate path. The connection is made through a VPN server that encrypts your data.
This VPN server acts as a relay between the Internet and your system. The website interacts with the VPN server, and the server interacts with your system.
In other words, a VPN allows you to cock block anyone trying to get into your sh*t.
Since the interaction between the VPN server and your system is encrypted, nobody can see which website you're browsing or what data you're sharing over the Internet.
All a potential hacker can see is the fact that you are connected to a VPN server. Therefore, the hacker is going to move on to the next sucker.
VPNs provide security as well as anonymity by using their encryption functionality. Both of these are required when using a public network like hotel WiFi.
A VPN service is a great tool for travelers in general. By choosing a different server location, your ISP-provided IP address is hidden, and a new one is assigned. This way, you can bypass geo-blocked content and access restricted online services wherever you are.
Don't just take my word for it (although I'm a coder, and consider myself an ethical hacker).
Do some research yourself by reading about VPNs and looking into the software I suggested above.
It's 2015. We should all know how to fight hackers.
Do something about it ASAP.