For most people, the first thing they do when they enter their hotel room is finding the WiFi password and connect to the internet. I’ll admit it, it’s what I do, especially when we go on a trip abroad.
With roaming charges still being so high, it’s only natural to look for public WiFi nearly everywhere you go. A lot of people are aware that this isn’t the safest way to connect to the internet; however, just how much can hotels see what you do on WiFi?
Hotels are notorious for their lax security, and their WiFi is no different. Hotels and some of their employees can easily find out when you logged in and out, what websites you visited, and how long you spent connected to the internet. In addition to your personal details already on file, it’s a lot of data to have on someone.
To be clear, we’re not saying hotels or their staff members are looking up what you’re doing while connected to their WiFI; we’re just saying that there’s a possibility.
Is it safe to use WiFi at a hotel?
Hotel staff isn’t the main point of concern when using hotel WiFi. Criminals are often lurking on guests as they’re connecting to the WiFi. They have already hacked into it and now just need an unsuspecting victim to target. Or they simply set up dummy WiFi that has a name similar to the real hotel network.
There’s a known group of cybercriminals called Darkhotel that was targeting luxury hotels and their high-profile guests and getting all their sensitive and valuable data.
Their business is still alive and well, even after more than ten years of doing it. No one can say for certain how many people, and subsequently, businesses were affected.
The criminals would install a backdoor into victims’ devices by asking them to update software that was already installed on their computers. But the victims weren’t updating their software but installing spying software.
So, is it safe to use a hotel’s WiFi? Hotel WiFi isn’t safe and shouldn’t be used unprotected. However, by using one of many reliable and trusted VPNs, you can make your stay at a hotel much safer.
Can I trust hotel WiFi?
To connect to a hotel WiFi, you usually only have to enter a password that’s the same for the whole hotel or enter your room number and a password unique to the room. In both of these cases, it’s rather easy to find out what the password is or even hack into the WiFi.
Without adequate security measures and data encryption on behalf of the hotel network, you really can’t trust hotel WiFi. With so many potential victims, hotels are a prime target for cybercriminals looking for easy prey.
Do hotels track internet usage?
Hotels track your internet usage in form of a log file that contains all connections to the hotel servers, as well as your personal info, IP address, and when you logged in and out. That log file is hopefully protected and guarded from most employees but the essential IT staff.
However, although hotels don’t have the authority to view your online data, authorities can obtain a warrant to get that information. And criminals can hack into it.
Can hotels see what you search on their Wi-Fi?
In general, the hotel network admin can see what websites you’re visiting and for how long but they can’t see what you’re searching for on their WiFi, i.e. looking up things in Google.
Hotels are able to see the top domain you’re visiting, but not so much which specific page you’re on. Unless you’ve connected to a dummy WiFi that someone else set up to trick hotel guests into connecting.
Does hotel WiFi track history?
Hotels save log data that has some sensitive info on what websites you visited. That means that, yes, hotels do track your browsing history and keep it, at least for some time.
The Federal Government can subpoena the hotel to give over your data, including your browsing history, and other online activity.
Can hotels see what you watch on TV?
Hotels that use pay-per-view systems can certainly see what you watched on your TV and for how long. This has been covered to death in comedies and sitcoms.
When guests check out of their rooms, the receptionist will usually read out loud what dirty movies they’ve been watching and embarrass the protagonist.
Is it safe to use hotel WiFi for banking?
Using hotel WiFi for banking or entering any sensitive information is one of the worst things you can do. Anyone who intercepts the hotel WiFi connection will get access to your login credentials and other private information that also includes banking details.
So, what should you do? Use your phone’s mobile data to access the bank’s website or app. You can also use a VPN that encrypts all your network data, and even if someone gets their hands on it, it will be gibberish to them.
Do hotels block VPN?
Most hotels don’t block VPNs, but some certainly do. They might want you to pay for their in-hotel PPV and not stream from your Netflix account for free, or they have limited resources on their network.
Oftentimes, you might think that your VPN is blocked when in fact, you can’t access your VPN until authenticated through a portal page.
To bypass hotel VPN blocks, or any VPN blocks for that matter, use obfuscated servers to trick the network into thinking that you aren’t even using a VPN.
Is it safe to use hotel Wi-Fi with VPN?
The only way to use a hotel, or any public WiFi, is to use a VPN before connecting to the network. A VPN will mask your IP address and encrypt all the data that passes between the servers.
That will ensure all the sensitive information that you type in or view online stays protected from prying eyes, whether they’re IT or hotel staff, cybercriminals, hackers, government, etc.
READ ALSO: All You Need to Know to Stay Safe Online
How do I stay safe on hotel WiFi?
Because you never know who’s seeing your online data while you’re connected to hotel WiFi, it’s up to you to stay safe and private. You can sometimes opt out of using their WiFi and stay connected to your mobile data.
Never access any personal or sensitive data or enter any passwords when connected to the hotel network. In fact, don’t even open the login screen as that could be enough for hackers to steal your info.
If you have no choice but to connect to hotel WiFi, always use a VPN that will enable you to stay safe when connected to public WiFi in a hotel, cafe, airport, etc.
Will a VPN hide my internet activity?
VPNs were designed to hide all your internet activity, including your IP address, what websites you’re visiting, what you’re writing in your emails, what you’re saying when on a VOIP call, what messages you’re sending, etc.
All that third parties can see is that you’re connected to a VPN. If you don’t even want to share that info, or VPN is being blocked for some reason, you can use obfuscated servers that will protect you even more and will hide the fact that you’re using a VPN in the first place.
We recommend VPNs based on how much they cost, what they’re the best for, and what features they have. Check out our Best VPNs page to find the one that will prevent hotels from seeing what you do on WiFi.
Public WiFi networks, including the ones that hotels offer, are never safe and shouldn’t be used without a VPN connection. Not only can rouge hotel staff access your information, but they are prone to takeovers from cybercriminals that prey on unsuspecting victims and steal their valued data.
Never join hotel WiFi blindly and always have a VPN connection turned on on all your devices.