Is It Safe to Use Hotel WiFi? No. Ways to Protect Yourself

Samuel Walker  - Technology Policy Researcher
Last updated: January 15, 2024
Read time: 15 minutes

Hotels' WiFi security is insufficient. Still, you can use free internet there safely with tools like VPN alongside taking care of some best practices for online security. This post explains how you can protect yourself when on such networks.


Many hotels in major cities around the globe offer free WiFi hotspots that help travelers/guests stay connected with the online world. A hotel WiFi only requires logging in with a username and password to access the free internet service. While that sounds convenient, hotel WiFi security is always dubious. Most open networks are unsecured connections, hence the easy targets for hackers and spies. Therefore, adopting preventive measures, like using a reputable VPN, is crucial before connecting your device with a hotel WiFi.

A free WiFi connection is considered a luxury when traveling abroad and not wanting to subscribe to international roaming and mobile data. Yes, without WiFi, you might feel detached and unattended. But are you sure the wireless hotspot in your hotel room is safe and reliable?

By using unsecured WiFi, there’s a chance that you might end up exposing your bank accounts or your identity being stolen by a cyber-identity thief.

A few years back, you would only need to keep your wallet protected from thieves and secure your password while going out. Or additionally, people had to ensure they did not lose their credit cards. Yes, that all is still essential.

But traveling today also requires protecting yourself when using public WiFi. That pretty much justifies why people keep asking, ‘Is hotel WiFi safe?’

It indeed is a legitimate query to make. This article will explain why hotel WiFi is unsafe to use and how to use any public WiFi safely. That includes the airport WiFi network, WiFi at cafes, and hotel WiFi hotspots.

The hidden deal behind free public WiFi connections

While traveling abroad due to office work or going out with family, it’s natural for people to visit shopping malls and cafes. Free WiFi hotspot is probably what most visitors ask cafe owners first of all. Free WiFi is a luxury when visiting foreign countries for office trips and family vacations.

According to some surveys, many tourists consider fast wireless internet facilities more vital than hotel laundry service, catering, or location. Nowadays, almost all hotels worldwide provide free WiFi access to their guests and market themselves with this specific facility.

However, the convenience of browsing the internet and streaming Netflix while relaxing in your hotel room has its price: a potential risk of cyber-attacks.

Is hotel WiFi a secure connection?

Hotel wifi security

As noted earlier, hotel WiFi security is inefficient, and hackers can easily exploit it. The lack of proper security is because your hotel’s main aim is to provide you with a friendly and comfortable environment, not stealthy cybersecurity.

Hotel management puts little or no effort into protecting their ‘open to all‘ WiFi networks.

While getting free access, guests are asked to create a login password and username. Most guests enter their room or contact number, and a password gets created for that specific login device. The entire responsibility for the overall network security is one weak password, which is the same as having no password.

Many hotels entirely skip the authentication procedure, allowing malicious traffic from anyone or anywhere to connect to their free WiFi network. With weak implementation and irregular monitoring of firewalls, and improper data security, wireless networks remain vulnerable to malicious identity theft, cyber-attacks, and data leaks.

The biggest threat to your privacy is a cyber hacker’s ability to establish a silent bypass medium between your device and the WiFi access point. The user’s screen, notification, and activity are visible to the hacker, who can intervene.

Is hotel WiFi reliable for banking transactions?

Free and unsecured WiFi connections are not recommended for banking transactions. If you have connected to unsecured WiFi, there is a high chance of your online activities getting monitored by hostile third parties, commonly known as cyber hackers.

Consequently, anyone intervening in an unsecured hotel WiFi can fetch your private data. That includes photos and other data on your device, login credentials, financial account history, and other personal information.

Unless you have not subscribed to a reliable VPN such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN and installed it on your device, don’t try to access your bank or other sensitive accounts on WiFi. In essence, avoid any online transaction while on a hotel WiFi unless you have proper protection.

Do hotels monitor their WiFi?

It’s hard to tell whether hotels monitor their WiFi network because this boils down to the individual hotel. You can access hotel WiFi and use it for personal or business purposes.

However, like any other WiFi connection, hotel servers retain your internet log activity, such as websites visited, login/ logout times, time spent on the connection, and your IP address, among other personal details.

While it’s not common for the hotel management team to dig deep into the log file, your data remains on it and can be accessed if necessary.

Dangers of unsecured public WiFi hotspots

Continued use of public WiFi hotspots without securing your devices invites trouble. Public WiFi networks have become increasingly vulnerable to attacks by hackers, criminals, and third parties.

The easiest way for hackers to infiltrate your network is through poorly secured public WiFi hotspots. So, when you use a public network, you’re only as safe as the security of the said network.

Some of the threats you expose yourself to on an open network include:

1. Stalking

Connecting to public WiFi hotspots exposes you to the risk of stalking. Cybercriminals have easy access to your data while on a public network. With your confidential information at their disposal, they can easily access your various profiles, such as social media. In addition, cybercriminals can also use information such as your social security number to identify your areas of residence and stalk you.

2. Malware

Cybercriminals target public WiFi connections to infect your device with malware and viruses. Skilled cybercriminals don’t necessarily need to intercept your activity to gain access to your device.

A common way to infect your device is via file sharing and pop-up downloads or update requests. When you accept a file-sharing or download request, your device gets infected, granting the hacker access to your device.

3. Losing personal information

Hackers can intercept your online activity to access personal information on public WiFi. Whenever you key in personal data such as credit card details, passwords, online bank account information, and other sensitive information, you risk losing your private data to cybercriminals.

Common ways hackers access your personal information is through eavesdropping. Another way is the man-in-the-middle approach. The hackers create a personal WiFi hotspot and disguise it as a company’s or hotel’s connection. When you connect to their internet, they gain access to your network and steal your confidential information. This is why it’s essential to ensure you turn off all automatic updates, file sharing, and auto-connect while on public WiFi. Another critical way is by using “forget this network” once you’re done using a public WiFi network.

Is there a possibility of staying protected on a hotel’s free WiFi connection?

Since hotel WiFi security is inefficient, you must protect yourself from any possible data hack or cyber-attack. Users should be firmly aware of potential risks to their privacy before using an unsecured WiFi connection like the ones offered by hotels.

If the network is left unsupervised, cybercriminals can easily invade your privacy and manipulate private and vital data.

Users must refrain from accessing their online bank and financial accounts. Mobile data and roaming will likely cost little but keep your financial assets and vulnerable data safe.

Luckily, staying protected on a hotel WiFi does not require a fortune or too much of your time. All you need is to use some common sense and get your hands on a quality VPN.

VPN to the rescue

Never connect to a new network recklessly. Hackers tend to create false hotspots to attract users into thinking they are legitimate. And if you find two similar WiFi names, don’t click randomly; inquire hotel staff about their official WiFi network.

Another thing you should consider doing is always enabling a firewall on your device. A reliable firewall maintains an encrypted defense mechanism throughout your internet connection. That helps to make the information transition secure even on hotel WiFi. And, of course, installing quality antivirus software on your device is a no-brainer.

But there is a critical tool that not many uses or are aware of. It’s VPN.

To have stealthy security on WiFi connections such as your hotel’s, it’s essential to encrypt your internet traffic data. VPNs offer simple encryption providing a safe virtual passage to access data online. A reliable VPN helps you stay safe from hackers and malicious activities on unsecured WiFi connections. It’s the quickest way to stay protected when using hotel WiFi. Let’s cover it in a bit further detail below.

What is a VPN?

lesser known VPN benefits

A VPN allows you to have a secure interconnection with another network over the internet. VPNs can let you unblock and access any content anytime, anywhere. It also protects your browsing activity from leaking over public WiFi connections.

In essence, in the modern tech world, VPN is a piece of ninja software that routes your IP address and ciphers all of your internet traffic.

Enabling a VPN improves online privacy, provides a more secure environment, and helps users bypass web-censored content blocked by the government, ISPs, or any other organization or admin blocking websites.

Let it be Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Sky TV, ITV Hub, or any streaming portal; you can unblock them all with a VPN. Along with Netflix and other streaming portals, a VPN can also help you unblock entirely region-based websites.

But keep in mind not all VPNs perform equally well.

We recommend settling only with quality VPNs such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN for stealthy hotel WiFi security.

Enrolling a top VPN on your device will help make your hotel WiFi connection secure and private by encrypting your information. That will ultimately ensure hackers or any third party do not spy on your private information.

How a VPN protects your data?

  • Masking digital identity and location: VPNs mask your identity and location so hackers cannot track or digitally stalk you. It hides your IP address, making your data more secure and protected. In essence, a VPN not only blocks all the third parties on the internet from tracking your location.
  • Encryption: VPNs encrypt your data, transforming search history, browsing, and personal data into a code that no unauthorized person can access. This encryption puts you at peace with your data security and protection.
  • Secure online connections: Besides several other benefits, a VPN secures your online connections making your personal information and documents safe and protected. We all know that public WiFi can never be trusted because any hacker or stalker can hack into your device and steal data. But a VPN ensures it does not happen. Being dependent on public WiFi while using VPN ensures your data’s safety. It will secure your online passwords, credit card, banking details, and email addresses.
  • Safe torrenting: Torrenting has become quite common nowadays, thanks to the availability of free and high-quality downloadable content. However, the authenticity of downloaded content cannot be ensured, and these files can often contain viruses. VPN can be the ultimate solution to provide you with secure torrenting. It must be noted that torrenting is illegal, so you can be in trouble if your IP address and location become accessible. So better use a VPN to avoid such situations and protect your data and device.
  • Kill switch feature: Most of the top VPNs out there today also have a feature named the ‘kill switch.’ It disconnects your internet if the VPN faces any tiny glitch or stops working even for a second or two. Disconnecting the internet will automatically cut your device’s connection to the web, so no hacker could sneak their way around your firewall if the VPN faces a temporary glitch. The kill switch feature makes sure your privacy does not get compromised.
  • One account, multiple devices: On average, one VPN account allows the safety and protection of more than six devices. Some providers even offer unlimited simultaneous connections. That means you can protect multiple devices (let them be yours or someone from the family) by paying only for one account.

Why do you need a VPN subscription while globe-trotting?

What is a VPN 1220x745

When globe-trotting and staying in hotels with non-monitored WiFi connections, you are always at risk of exploiting your identity and data theft.

Therefore, a secure VPN service is recommended, which acts as a virtual shield when you avoid using mobile data subscriptions and protects you from exposure to third-party intervention.

But did you know that VPNs bring you added benefits alongside security?

Added benefits with the VPN app on your device

Below are some of the other benefits VPNs provide on top of keeping you safe online:

  • Stream content: A VPN will let you watch your favorite shows and stream Netflix in your hotel room. Change your IP country to any country you want and enjoy geo-restricted news, media, and sports content while away from home. Simple.
  • Ultimate Internet freedom: Thanks to VPNs, users can enjoy ultimate internet freedom and scroll through social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, regardless of their location at the time.
  • Ads blocking: Best VPNs available today block annoying ads and pop-ups that keep coming up while you consume any content online. When on unsecured WiFi networks such as a hotel, impersonators can infect your device with malicious ads known as malvertising. A VPN helps you avoid such hazards without you having to do anything.
  • Masks your identity virtually: You can create a virtual identity for yourself from anywhere you want by simply connecting to a VPN server.
  • Safe and encoded browsing history: VPN secures and filters your incoming and outgoing internet traffic with military-grade stealthy encryption, shielding you against hackers and cyber threats. It is said that the most advanced technology, a supercomputer, would take billions of years to crack the level of VPN security.

Other ways to achieve hotel WiFi security

Hotel WiFi networks are nowhere close to being safe. However, you can do a few things to protect your security on a public network, such as hotel WiFi.

  • Be aware of the risks associated with public WiFi. Understanding the potential risks of connecting to a hotel WiFi helps you make informed decisions.
  • Avoid inputting personal information on hotel WiFi. If you can’t abstain from using public WiFi, ensure you don’t key in any private data such as credit card details, online banking information, and passwords while on it.
  • Enable your firewall. Turning on your firewall adds a layer of protection to your network. A reliable firewall will act as a defense against cybercriminals.
  • Encrypt your data. Data encryption is a reliable way of protecting yourself from data theft. Some tools that help encrypt your data include VPN. A virtual private network protects you on public networks by masking your IP address and hiding your online activity. That way, cybercriminals cannot spy on you.
  • Avoid downloading files from unknown sources or opening malicious links/ attachments. A reliable antivirus will help block malicious files or links when using a hotel WiFi.
  • Turn off automatic updates, file sharing and use the “forget this WiFi” feature.

What if I decide not to take precautions when on hotel WiFi

Hotel wifi security

The biggest risk you run by not using a VPN and being careless when using your hotel WiFi is hackers successfully hacking into your devices. While once in, a hacker can do multiple things to your device, below we list the two most devastating ones:

1. Stealing your identity and passwords

Given that a hacker has got hold of your device, hackers snoop and collect your login details whenever you go onto social media sites or other sensitive portals such as intern banking websites.

What can happen afterward is an easy guess. You can end up exposing your personality and financial information to strangers. Remember, your finances and bank accounts are always at risk if your privacy and identity get compromised.

2. Infecting your computer with viruses

Smart hackers don’t rely on data monitoring or stealing your login credentials. Hackers can also send malware files to users’ laptops, Android/iOS-based smartphones, or other connected devices. Doing so helps them infect users’ tech belongings and use them maliciously.

Here, on top of using a VPN, we recommend you refrain from downloading content from unknown sites as viruses could be transferred via WiFi access points.

Remember, unless you have proper protection, you and your identity are at risk while using a public WiFi connection. That stands true even if you don’t visit any financial site or log into portals requiring your login credentials.


You see, VPN provides secure and reliable protection, which has a reach far beyond unsecured WiFi. You can securely start doing all your hotel WiFi activities by enabling a VPN on your device. But one thing worth noting here is you must subscribe to only the best VPN service.

Also, if you cannot subscribe to a VPN service for any reason but still need to use public or hotel WiFi during your family vacations or official trips, remember the following tips to ensure online security:

  • Check your device’s security settings
  • Change your passwords time-to-time throughout your tour
  • Avoid opening sensitive sites (such as your Internet banking portal)
  • Carefully review the URLs of the websites you visit (make sure you are surfing only the HTTPS-enabled sites)

Apart from following the above-provided tips, you could also use your mobile data or smartphone’s WiFi hotspot feature to tether your laptop to your mobile. That way, data will be sent over your mobile data, which is less vulnerable to snooping than hotel WiFi. But understandably, while this solution works, it would use up your precious mobile data allowance.


Yes. Cybercriminals use public networks like hotel WiFi to access your personal information. They know that hotel guests are often novices in privacy knowledge, so they take advantage. Encrypting your data, using a VPN, and enabling firewall protection is paramount.

Hotel WiFi is susceptible to hackers targeted by malicious users intending to steal confidential business information. Without a doubt, connecting your mobile phone device to a hotel WiFi is unsafe.

There are different circumstances where using hotel WiFi might be unavoidable. However, you can use a VPN to ensure online security even with otherwise unsafe hotel WiFi. It will hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic. That way, hackers will find it hard to access your private data.

Hotel WiFi networks are convenient for searching the web and doing work outdoors. However, most hotels leave you to connect to their public WiFi at your own security risk.

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About the Author

Samuel Walker

Samuel Walker

Technology Policy Researcher
27 Posts

Sam Walker is a tech-focused writer who has traveled the world but currently lives in Australia. He has a keen interest in digital privacy and security. Sam loves testing new technology and researching the latest security trends to keep others informed (and ultimately safe) online.

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