Meeting Mentor Magazine

August 2020

Risky Business

Free Wi-Fi Can Be Dangerous,
So Take Precautions Before Sign-on

In their campaign for free Wi-Fi, hotel guests may get more than they bargained for.

The free Wi-Fi networks that hotel guests clamor for open them to an array of security vulnerabilities, warned Carol Kando-Pineda, counsel, Division of Consumer & Business Education, Federal Trade Commission. Example: A hotel guest signs onto a Wi-Fi network and gets a pop-up for a software update, but doesn’t know the network is compromised. The download of malware is accepted, and the computer is damaged or information is stolen.

So warn meeting attendees, exhibitors and staff of the risks and urge them to take a few key precautions before signing onto a public network.
• Log in or send personal information only to websites that are fully encrypted (https in the web address — “s” stands for secure). Log out of any unencrypted page right away.
• Log out when you’ve finished using an account; don’t stay permanently logged in.
• Vary passwords on different websites you access.
• Pay attention to warnings from browsers that you’re trying to visit fraudulent websites or are downloading malicious programs.
• Keep browser and security software up-to-date.
• Find out if the Wi-Fi network uses encryption; WPA2 is the strongest, she noted. “I recommend that people ask about that if they’re considering doing business with a hotel.”
(Click here for more precautions.)

As Wi-Fi  becomes a “commodity” like electricity, hotels are coming to grips with customers’ expectation of free service. Example: As of February 14, all Hyatt-branded hotels and resorts worldwide are providing free, “standard-tier” Wi-Fi in guest rooms and social spaces — but not in meeting rooms — for an unlimited number of mobile devices or laptops, Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced. That level of service is “appropriate for general web surfing and email,” said a Hyatt spokesperson. Premium Wi-Fi service — for more bandwidth-intensive video streaming and gaming — is free for Diamond and Platinum Hyatt Gold Passport members, but still comes at a price for other guests. Some hotels, such as Park Hyatt and Andaz hotels, offer free premium Wi-Fi service.

Hyatt sees Wi-Fi security as a “shared effort,” the spokesperson explained. “Guests should think about connecting to hotel Wi-Fi the same way they would think about connecting to any other public hotspot connections, such as a coffee shop or retailer.” Hyatt recommends that guests get frequent software patch updates, use active virus protection, and install personal firewalls. — Maxine Golding

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally.

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MeetingMentor, the leading publication for senior meeting planners, is circulated to the clients, prospects and sales associates of ConferenceDirect, which books more than 3.87 million room nights.

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