Business travelers beware: hotels are dangerous places, period.

You’ve been warned, by none other than the U.S. Secret Service, that the computers in hotel business centers are attractive targets for information thieves. The feds recently revealed they’ve busted some bad guys who used keylogging software to grab business and financial data from unsuspecting hotel guests who use those facilities to check mail and access cloud accounts. The problem is widespread, they say.

This is good intel, but as long as we’re on the subject, Habeas Hard Drive wishes to point out that hotels are dangerous places for sensitive data. Plenty of schemes exist to slurp up digital assets from business travelers, and to physically steal laptops and mobile devices.

We’ve long been aware, for instance, that the electronic locks and keycards employed by most hotels for guest room doors are easily disabled. Anyone who knows what they’re doing can conceal a $50 device inside a magic marker and use the maintenance access port to enter and leave the room without an electronic record.

It’s also well-known that the governments of certain hostile nations have trained and paid hotel maids to activate devices left in the room by guests, and pull the files onto a flash drive while they change the towels and run the vacuum cleaner. The drive is equipped to bypass the login window and get straight to the work of stealing information. No real skill necessary, and the guest is never the wiser.

To the extent possible, keep your devices with you when you travel, or keep a separate tablet or laptop just for travel, loaded with only the bare minimum. Don’t check your email or cloud storage sites using hotel computers. And encrypt everything.


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