The FBI has issued a warning to people in the US to avoid using hotel Wi-Fi when travelling. In the advisory note, agents recommended that anyone travelling away from home use only cellular networks or encrypted personal Wi-Fi networks for their devices. This applies particularly to business travellers who are likely to be carrying sensitive data on their electronic devices. Public Wi-Fi networks in hotels frequently lack adequate protection and make it easier for cybercriminals to steal data.
According to the FBI, hackers have been targeting travellers’ laptops and other electronic devices through these unsecured hotel Wi-Fi connections for years. The problem lies primarily in the fact that most hotel Wi-Fi networks are rarely secure, allowing hackers and internet “snoopers” to intercept any data that is transmitted over the network. The information that is transmitted via public Wi-Fi can easily be accessed by unauthorised users, which can be a cause for grave concern, as data such as financial information and passwords could be stolen.
Experts have long suggested that mobile hotspots and VPN services are much safer alternatives to hotel Wi-Fi networks. Users who choose to travel with a mobile hotspot could create a secure, password-protected wireless network, which would allow for the transfer of data between devices securely, without exposing any sensitive data to would-be hackers. Meanwhile, VPN services rely on a series of encrypted tunnels which allow users to surf the web anonymously and without any risk of snooping.
It’s not the first time the FBI has issued warnings over the security threat of hotel Wi-Fi. In fact, the US federal government itself has been discouraging its employees from using hotel Wi-Fi for official government work since 2014. Similarly, online security experts have also long advised avoiding hotel Wi-Fi whenever possible, warning travellers to think twice about connecting to public Wi-Fi in general, as it is often not secure enough to protect sensitive data. Travellers who are concerned about the security of their electronic devices when staying in hotels should, where possible, take extra steps to protect themselves, either by using mobile hotspots or VPN services, or avoiding public Wi-Fi altogether.