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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.

Foiling physical intrusions

The risk of physical intrusion at hotels is very real, and real-world hacks of hotel doors are well documented. Most of the hotels around the world continue to implement and use door-access cards based on magnetic stripes that can be easily duplicated, or basic RFID cards that are susceptible to cloning. Such cards are cheaper than more secure alternatives.

Of course, laptops and other electronics containing sensitive business information could be stolen outright, but the hard drives of many laptops can also be removed and cloned with off-the-shelf hardware, without leaving a trace. If you intend to step out of your hotel room at any time without bringing your digital devices, lock them up in a safe or protect your data with robust data encryption.

Full disk encryption is common today and is enabled by default on many newer devices. However, it still makes sense to increase your laptop security by setting a shorter sleep timeout period and marking sure the "require a password after sleep" setting is selected. (Read, "10 things to do before your lose your laptop," for more proactive security suggestions.)

To protect data on portable storage devices, you can enable software encryption, such as BitLocker To Go, or use a hardware encryption dongle, such as the Enigma 2.0. The latter dongle plugs into a USB port, between a portable hard disk and your laptop, and it transparently encrypts and decrypts data at wired speeds.

Of course, you could also choose not to bring along sensitive data on trips, and then rely on a remote desktop tool such as Parallels Access for access to desktop applications via iOS or Android devices. Alternatively, you could also log in to your remote desktop using a web browser and store no data on your portable device at all.

These tips aren't meant to be exhaustive, but they should help defend against most common hotel hacks.

 

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