Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


08:10 AM
Connect Directly

Study: Hotel Networks Put Corporate Users at Risk

The Center for Hospitality Research's survey and hack confirms worries of weak security on hotel networks

You’re putting your company's data at risk when you connect to a hotel network, according to a new study examining Internet connections at U.S. hotels.

The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University surveyed nearly 150 hotels and then conducted on-site vulnerability testing on a sampling of about 50 hotels. About 20 percent of the nearly 150 hotels in the study still run basic (and vulnerable) Ethernet hub-type networks, and nearly 93 percent offer WiFi. Of the 39 hotel WiFi networks tested on-site by a Cornell researcher, only six were using encryption.

“On balance, we were forced to conclude that guests’ data transmissions are often at risk when they use a hotel’s network,” said Erica Wagner, assistant professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration and one of the researchers who conducted the study. “However, we did find hotels that were paying attention to the security of their guests’ data.”

Interestingly only about 21 percent of the hotels said they had reports of “wrongdoing” on their networks, according to the study. Still, the researchers pointed to some additional red flags from the survey, including the fact that most of the hotels don't have IT staffers. And one third of those that did said they had just one IT employee -- and that employee didn’t receive any training before starting his or her position. The average amount of hotel IT budgets that went to security was 9.5 percent, with some hotels spending nothing at all on security and others, 80 percent of their IT budget.

In basic vulnerability and penetration tests, Josh Ogle, graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and president of TriVesta LLC, logged onto hotels’ WiFi networks and ran an Ethereal protocol analyzer to determine if he could see HTTP or SMTP traffic. Eight of the on-site hotel tests were on wired networks, and Ogle looked on those networks for shared folders, and tried to hack into the hotel router. He also tried to capture packets from other guests.

“Even with hotels that required authentication, I found helpful employees who got me past that barrier. So, authentication is not as effective as we think, and then I found that of the 39 hotels that offered Wi-Fi connections, only six used encryption to help protect the system,” Ogle said.

One hotel stood out as a model for securing these networks, the researchers say -- the W Dallas Hotel–Victory, which runs VLANs for its users. “The VLAN inhibits attackers from using their computer to imitate the hotel’s main server, which is the mechanism most would use to intercept other people’s data,” the researchers wrote.

The findings reveal “that hotels in the U.S. are generally ill-prepared to protect their guests from the security problems inherent in Ethernet. We were forced to conclude further that most hotels have installed an amenity that they may not be managing properly,” according to the report.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
US Sets $5 Million Bounty For Russian Hacker Behind Zeus Banking Thefts
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  12/5/2019
4 Tips to Run Fast in the Face of Digital Transformation
Shane Buckley, President & Chief Operating Officer, Gigamon,  12/9/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
SQL injection vulnerability in DBD::PgPP 0.05 and earlier
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
includes/libs/IEUrlExtension.php in the MediaWiki API in MediaWiki 1.19.x before 1.19.8, 1.20.x before 1.20.7, and 1.21.x before 1.21.2 does not properly detect extensions when there are an even number of "." (period) characters in a string, which allows remote attackers to conduct cross-s...
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Zabbix 1.8.x before 1.8.18rc1, 2.0.x before 2.0.9rc1, and 2.1.x before 2.1.7.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in products.php in the Cart66 Lite plugin before for WordPress allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) Product name or (2) Price description fields via a request to wp-admin/admin.php. NOTE: This issue may...
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
Grandstream GXV3501, GXV3504, GXV3601, GXV3601HD/LL, GXV3611HD/LL, GXV3615W/P, GXV3651FHD, GXV3662HD, GXV3615WP_HD, GXV3500, and possibly other camera models with firmware, have a hardcoded account "!#/" with the same password, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain ...