Can hotels see the websites I visit on their WiFi
Credits: Manuela Jaeger – Pixabay
“Is it safe to use the hotel’s WiFi?”
“Can hotels snoop on your internet connection and find out what website you’re visiting on their WiFi?”
If you care about your personal security and also have a passion for travel, we bet you’ve asked yourself these questions at least once in your life.
And rightly so.
While your hotel management can make some bold claims about their wireless network being as secure as the Pentagon’s defense system, in 99% of cases this will be nothing more than word of mouth to sell you on booking.
The truth is that the hotel WiFi has never been secure in any way, and all sensitive information you send using it can easily be tracked, for example, your credit card details.
The same can happen to your internet search history, where the hotel WiFi administrator can, technically, look at your internet history.
But, why are hotel WiFi hotspots so unsecure?
And is there anything you can do to protect and hide your sensitive data while traveling?
In this article we will answer all these questions.
So, let’s dive into the details.
Is the Wi-Fi in the hotel safe
Hotel wifi security Very weak, and there are some reasons behind it.
First of all, the primary purpose of providing a free WiFi internet connection in a hotel is to make your stay there enjoyable and comfortable, which has nothing to do with cybersecurity, as it is generally seen.
Secondly, hoteliers do not usually want to invest their money in infrastructure that can provide you at least some degree of privacy and protection online.
So, perhaps the best thing you can expect from your hotel in terms of WiFi security is a weak password associated with your hotel room number.
However, often hotels do not bother to set up authentication for guest WiFi users, let alone proper protection and data encryption.
As a result, hotel visitors often fall prey to hacker attacks, data theft and third-party monitoring.
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Do hotels monitor WiFi
Even though hotels may not intentionally track your connection, they can still monitor their wireless network.
The thing is that hotel servers are not unique – they are very similar to servers of any other entity.
This means that they also collect log files of your internet use and a lot of data about your digital identity and browsing habits.
It’s not really good for your privacy, is it?
In general, log files maintained by hotel servers can reveal the following information about your Internet activities:
- Exact time when you connect to the Internet
- The time you spent on the Internet
- Time spent at a particular location
- The specific URLs you visited on a particular website
- Unencrypted HTTP Traffic
- Source and destination IP addresses
However, hotel servers can also keep some personal details about your real identity.
These details are recorded by the hotel staff before checking into the hotel and usually contain your name, surname, room number, etc.
Of course, as we have already said, your microdata may not be of any interest to the staff of the hotel you are in (well, who knows), but most often it is not about the staff.
The biggest threat to any traveler today, as you might have guessed, is hotel hackers.
This is correct.
Cybercriminals are quite fond of hacking unsecured hotel WiFi connections, and there are also some elite hacker groups (check the DarkHotel and APT28 groups) that target only the hospitality sector.
The reason they do this is simple:
- WiFi is inherently flawed technology
- Hotels do almost nothing to protect the communications of their visitors.
So, basically, every time you connect to a wireless network without properly encrypting your internet traffic, there is a high chance that you will encounter cybercriminals and your sensitive data will be stolen.
Is it safe to use hotel WiFi for banking
Obviously it is not.
By connecting to an unencrypted hotel network, you leave the hotel’s internet connection vulnerable to various types of cyber attacks, the most dangerous of which are man-in-the-middle attacks or MITM attacks.
A MITM attack is a type of cyber attack where a hacker secretly inserts himself between your device and the server your device is connected to.
By doing so, the hacker intercepts all the data being sent to and from your device and then uses it for suspicious purposes.
Therefore, if you try to use online banking through a hotel Wi-Fi connection without proper security measures, you could literally lose all the savings in your bank account.
What you need to remember is whatever you type on your laptop or smartphone on a guest WiFi, whether it’s account credentials, passwords, banking information or other valuable data, can be hacked.
This is why it is wise to use reliable encryption tools to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of cybercrime.
How to stay protected on WiFi in your hotel
Due to the fact that hotels do not care about your personal security, it is in your best interest to protect yourself from hackers and third party monitoring.
Here’s how you can do that:
Know that unprotected WiFi hotspots can pose a significant risk to you as a traveller. It is the best place for hackers to steal people’s data.
- Avoid logging into extremely vulnerable accounts
Avoid using online banking and other financial services on the hotel’s WiFi connection. Don’t sign in to accounts that might leak valuable data when hacked.
- Make sure the WiFi hotspot is not fake
Oftentimes, hackers create fake WiFi hotspots (also called evil twin networks) to trick their users into believing that they are legitimate. So, if your device detects two hotspots with similar names, don’t connect to either of them and it’s best to ask your hotel staff about the real hotspot.
Don’t forget to keep your firewall enabled. A good firewall creates a lot of obstacles on the way for a hacker trying to hack into your system.
- Keep your antivirus software running
Always keep your antivirus software running and perform regular virus scans so that if someone tries to infect your device with malware, you will be able to detect it and get rid of it right away.
VPNs are great security tools for you to encrypt your data on the internet and stay safe on unsecured WiFi for guests. A VPN hides your real IP address and encrypts all the data you send and receive on the Internet, keeping you under the radar of hackers and snoopers.
How a VPN secures your data on hotel WiFi
Hotels are not the only place where you can use a VPN to protect your sensitive data.
In fact, you can do this any time you feel you need to add an extra layer of protection to your internet connection.
For those interested in learning more about how a virtual private network protects your WiFi data at the hotel and elsewhere, here’s a quick explanation.
Every time you run your VPN software, it creates a secure encrypted tunnel for your data to travel through.
This tunnel acts as an intermediary between your device and a remote VPN server, so all data sent during a VPN session is strongly encrypted, and no one can read it.
Moreover, to be able to read your data, the hacker or snooper must know that the data is coming from you, and since the VPN hides your IP address, this also becomes impossible.
Is it safe to use a VPN with a hotel WiFi?
Yes, using a VPN with the hotel WiFi is secure.
First, VPN is a completely legal technology, and no one can restrict you from taking advantage of it.
Second, VPNs are great tools for protecting data in an insecure environment, such as guest WiFi.
So with a VPN, you can enjoy your favorite internet activities without worrying that someone will harm your online security.
Can a hotel monitor the websites you visit if you use a VPN?
No you can not.
Every time you connect to a VPN server, you are assigned a completely different IP address than the one the hotel gives you.
So, all the hotel can see is that some visitors are using a VPN, but no more than that.
VPN for Travel: What else you can do with a VPN
Except to protect your private data and hide your IP address, you can use a VPN service for many purposes, especially if you travel a lot.
The only thing you need to do before going for a particular VPN service is to check if it is reliable enough, and you are good to go.
Here’s what you can do once, for example, you’ve subscribed to one of our VPN plans:
- Bypass digital censorship
With the help of SwitchVPN, you can bypass all internet censorship restrictions and enjoy internet freedom in any country in the world.
- Stream your favorite shows
SwitchVPN allows you to watch your favorite shows in HD in your hotel room.
Simply choose a server located in your home country and watch your favorite content with little or no buffering.
SwitchVPN allows you to buy cheaper airline tickets and avoid price increases when shopping online.
Nobody likes to be bombarded with ads.
You can use SwitchVPN to get rid of the banners and popups that advertisers send to your IP address.
This, of course, is only part of the things you can do with a VPN.
Visit our What is a VPN page if you want to learn more about VPN technology.
We hope we were able to clarify the matter and provide you with the information you were looking for.
Here is a short summary of the article:
- Hotels can monitor the websites you visit on their WiFi
- Poor hotel Wi-Fi security
- Using online banking on hotel WiFi is not safe
- A VPN service can hide your browsing habits from hotels and other third parties
- Hotels can’t see your internet history if you use a VPN
- A VPN can be used for a variety of different purposes