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How to protect yourself from common hotel security threats

Paul Mah | Aug. 4, 2016
Frequently travelers who aren't prepared for the security risks associated with staying in hotels put potentially sensitive information and their own personal safety at risk. Here's how to spot common threats, and protect your data while on the road.

It may also be a good idea to hold off on software updates while travelling, because hostile networks can push through spoofed software updates. If you need to update software while on the road, do so only after connecting to a secure network via a VPN connection and only download updates from official vendor websites.

Strategically navigate the hotel minefield

Networks aside, hotel rooms can also be veritable minefields. For example, USB charging stations can be modified to inject malware payloads into the devices travelers plug into them, and RFID skimmers can siphon data from digital room keys and other RFID access cards. Hidden cameras could also be strategically positioned in front of a desk to look over the shoulder of anyone working there — or into a shower stall.

A perpetuator who gained entry to the room earlier could have installed such devices, and the high turnover rate of many hotel rooms means it is unlikely that hotel staff would find these subtle modifications, even if they looked for them.

One way to avoid potentially modified USB charging ports is to bring your own chargers. If you don't want to lug along another adapter, you could consider laptop adapters with built-in USB charging ports, such as the Zolt Laptop Charger Plus [ find it on Amazon - *what's this?*or the PlugBug, [ find it on Amazon - *what's this?* ], which is designed for use with Apple's MacBook power adapter. You could also get a data-blocker USB cable or adapter (like this one from PortaPow) to ensure only power comes through.

The Anker PowerPort 6 USB charger is compact and powers up to six devices simultaneously.

It's easier to defend against hidden RFID scanners due to the limited range of such readers. Simply avoid placing potentially sensitive items near expected places within the room—a wallet on the bed stand, for example. Or you could place them in anti-RFID sleeves when they're not in use. It might also be a good idea to leave any building access fobs and cards you don't need at home.

Hidden cameras may be harder to avoid, because hotel desks are often bolted in place. You may want to place your laptop at a slightly off-center angle and use a privacy shield while working at a desk in your hotel room. Keep an eye out for conspicuously placed camera lenses. It's also wise to cover your fingers when you types passwords and enable two-factor authentication for any services you plan to use in your room, where possible.


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