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Hotel networks face hacker threat

By Nick Easen for CNN

When you view corporate files in a hotel room, is someone snooping?
When you view corporate files in a hotel room, is someone snooping?

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(CNN) -- Many hotels have added high-speed wireless connections for executives to surf the Internet or access corporate data on the road.

But in the time it takes you to check out of your hotel, a hacker could have checked in to your computer and logged on to your confidential files while they sit in the lobby.

With security software available on the Internet from sites like, hackers can explore unsecured hotel networks and tap into a guest's laptop computer.

"Most hotels claim to offer secure broadband services, but most do not know enough about security issues to ask their providers the right questions," David Garrison of STSN, a broadband security firm told CNN.

"A guest from company A could possibly hack into a conference held by company B, their competitor, stealing valuable corporate data and leaving the hotel open to liability."

Virtual private network

Most companies provide their employees with access to a VPN or virtual private network when they are on the road.

This sets up a secure "tunnel" of information between the executive and the company network -- but even these are vulnerable to hackers.

The biggest problem is that many laptops using Microsoft Windows have a default setting that enables you to share files or communicate with other computers.

This is because most are set up to be used in a shared or "campus" environment.

Unfortunately, unless this is turned off hackers can easily get in when you log on to a wireless network.

Many hotels are wising up to the vulnerability of wireless connectivity and installing secure systems.

The key thing is to ask your hotel about security before booking a room and to only use those that use reputable security systems.

Personal firewalls can be used as a deterrent. These are software-based and simple versions can be downloaded for free online.

There are a few other steps executives can take to boost their security while using VPNs on the road, according to Garrison.

"Install an anti-virus program, turn off file-sharing capabilities and make sure you have the latest security updates for your operating system," he explained.

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