Black Friday

5 Best VPNs for Hotels in 2017 – Protect Yourself on Public Networks

Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper

September 13, 2017

In some areas of the world, your laptop and mobile devices are worth gold. It’s not that anyone wants to buy your devices – it’s access to your work network that some foreign governments and industrial spies are after – and they can make a fortune. Hackers have discovered a way to get into the databases of companies and remain there for years undetected. This type of cybercrime is called an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). This security weakness frequently compromises the privacy of large sections of the population. Hackers can access personal information and financial credentials from government or banking databases. In addition, hackers are stealing new technology in order to replicate it in other countries.

Quick Links to Our 5 Best VPNs for Hotels

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. VyprVPN
  3. IPVanish
  4. PrivateInternetAccess
  5. TorGuard

One of the easiest entry points for these hackers is through the computerized gadgets that people take with them on vacation or business trips. Cybercriminals don’t need to roam the streets looking for tourists. They just need to set up their hacking devices in the hotels that host tourists. Hotels’ free WiFi services act like ramps onto the cybercrime highway.

Never imagine that you are insignificant. Don’t believe that you have no information that foreign hackers can use. If you can connect to the company WiFi at work, or if your office runs a “bring your own device” policy, any spyware snuck onto your smartphone or laptop can open up a backdoor in the network to hackers. Once they’re in, they run special software to replace log files and cover up their activities. Even if your company has no useful information to steal, the network is valuable.

Chinese hackers have set up a secret web of paths that run undetected through the corporate and institutional networks of North America and Europe. This is called the “Terracotta VPN.” It provides cover to any hacker who wants to launch a cyberattack. That means that when an attack occurs, the authorities trace it to your company. No matter how unimportant your business seems, you could have the FBI turning up on the doorstep, accusing your company of being a front for terrorists, drug smugglers, or data thieves. The hackers make sure the trail goes cold at the hacked company’s network. That means a lot of innocent people are going to have some explaining to do. Why? Because your phone got hacked while you were on the vacation of a lifetime in Hong Kong.

Security experts advise to leave your gadgets at home when travelling to China, Russia, the Baltic States, and South America. Hackers can sneak app and operating system updates onto your phone and laptop while you walk around or sleep. They can do this even if you have turned your devices off. Even if you don’t connect to the office network while you’re away, you can carry Trojans and spyware back home on your smartphone. Once you arrive back and call a friend, you may just have launched a computer virus epidemic that will cripple hospital machinery all over your country and put lives at risk.

If you really have to take your devices with you, install extra security and privacy software to protect them. Remember that you’re particularly vulnerable in your hotel. That’s where foreign secret service operatives and state-sponsored hackers have set up intrusion procedures.

The strongest protection you can get is one step up from security – it is privacy. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) secure the contents of your connections. They also protect all of the behind-the-scenes messages that computers and smartphones use to create connections. The technology that makes networks and the internet work is complicated. Not many people know about it. However, hackers in North Korea, China, and Russia receive large government budgets to invest in research. Foreign hacker corporations are constantly finding new ways to get into company networks, steal data, shut down utilities, and cause havoc. As such, installing a VPN before you go away on vacation is absolutely essential.

Best VPNs for Hotels: Summary

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
Nomination
ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Automatic WiFi protection
  • Kill switch
  • Get into Netflix
  • Servers in 94 countries
CONS:
  • Only three simultaneous connections allowed

ExpressVPN is brilliant at evading detection in China, which has the strongest methods in the world for blocking access to the internet. If you'll be traveling to a country that has controls over internet access, the chances are that the government there will be emulating China's controls. As such, a VPN that works well in China will help you anywhere in the world. The company's network has a server presence in 94 countries, which will give you fast access from most regions of the world.

The security features that you need from a VPN are all present with the ExpressVPN service. These include automatic WiFi protection, a kill switch to prevent unprotected Internet access, and the ability to specify that the VPN turns on when the computer boots up. There are no data throughput limits with ExpressVPN, so you can leave it running all the time. This VPN can get around the regional restrictions on streaming websites, so will help you watch TV from home while you're away.

Special Deal: Save 49% Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »30-day money-back guarantee
Nomination
VyprVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Three-day free trial
  • Servers in more than 70 countries
  • Kill switch
  • Proprietary cloaking technology
  • Automatic WiFi protection
CONS:
  • Basic plan doesn't include Chameleon

VyprVPN is also excellent at getting past restrictions in China, so will protect you anywhere in the world. The company created a unique cloaking method, called Chameleon, which dodges detection every time. You don't get Chameleon with the basic package, so splash out on the Premium plan to get full protection. You can set VyprVPN to come on when your computer starts up. In addition, the kill switch will block off your internet connection if the VPN drops. You can also set VyprVPN to automatically turn on if you try to connect to a WiFi network when it's switched off.

The network of VyprVPN includes servers in more than 70 countries and it can get into a lot of streaming services, including Netflix.

Nomination
IPVanish Homepage
PROS:
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 60 countries
  • Kill switch
  • Auto-reconnect
  • Automatic start up
CONS:
  • Customer support is slow

The high speeds of IPVanish are great for using IP telephony and streaming services to keep in touch with home from your hotel room. The company has servers in 60 countries, which will increase your opportunities to stay in touch with the folks and the TV back home.

You will be well protected by a kill switch on Windows and Mac OS X computers. However, the system for mobile devices doesn't include this feature. The app can be set to launch at system startup. It also has an auto-reconnect function to get you back online with protection as quickly as possible. The unlimited data deal of this VPN makes it possible to leave it on all the time.

4. Best VPN for Hotels: PrivateInternetAccess

PrivateInternetAccess Homepage
PROS:
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Ad, malware, and tracker code blockers
  • Kill switch
  • Strong WiFi protection
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
CONS:
  • Relatively small server network

PIA has a smaller server network than the other VPNs in this list, with locations in only 25 countries. On the plus side, that geographical limitation is reflected in the price. If you want to get into streaming servers back home, you need to route through a VPN server in your home country. Thus, if you see your country in the PIA server locations list, you could get a great service at a much lower price than you would have to pay for ExpressVPN.

This VPN includes ad, tracker, and malware blockers. These amp up your defenses against hotel WiFi hackers. The company is very aware of the risks that WiFi networks present. It keeps adding features that specifically defend customers' privacy when they use WiFi. Automatic start up and a kill switch complete all of the necessary security features that will keep you safe on hotel networks.

5. Best VPN for Hotels: TorGuard

TorGuard Homepage
PROS:
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Kill switch
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
  • Servers in 55 countries
  • Ad, tracker, and malware blocker
CONS:
  • Can be difficult to install

TorGuard has servers in 55 countries. This VPN also includes extra malware, ad, and tracker blockers to keep you safe from snoopers on your hotel WiFi network. TorGuard offers an anonymous proxy service. Ordinarily, this would be good enough to get around the regional restrictions on video streaming services. However, the lower security that you get with such a service is not worth the risk when you're connecting to hotel WiFi networks, so go for the company's VPN plan.

This VPN has the protection that you need when connecting to unsafe hotel WiFi networks. These features include a kill switch, which can be set to just block internet access for specific applications. However, you're probably better off blocking the whole system from access if the VPN drops. You can also specify that the VPN connects on system start up. The unlimited data allowance enables you to keep the VPN on all the time.

Best VPNs for Hotels: Considerations

From Hardware Hacks to Cyberattacks

US authorities have been warning citizens about taking internet-active devices to China since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Former National Counterintelligence executive, Joel Brenner, is on a mission to inform the public about risks in China. He claims that the Chinese secret service monitors and manipulates hotel networks in China.

In the beginning, physical contact with the device was required to facilitate these intrusions. Travelers reported that they left their laptops and phones in hotel rooms while they went out for dinner. On returning to the US, network administrators found that the devices had extra hardware implanted. Some, such as Dan Harris at China Law Blog, report returning to their rooms and catching people accessing their computers. Dan Harris’s experience was in Tokyo, Japan.

Once hotels offered in-room internet access, physical access invasion evolved. Hackers and security officials didn’t develop WiFi intervention methods immediately. Initially, hotel internet systems were used as a ploy to allow spies to gain access to foreigners’ electronic devices by invitation.

Under this scenario, guests logging into the hotel network were shown an error screen. This advised them to call the front desk and ask for a technician to come and fix the problem. The technician was a state security official in hotel uniform. He/she happily installed new network software, along with spyware. The fix would get the guest online. However, keystroke loggers and new controllers on the computer meant that every action was recorded. Even the cameras and microphones on laptops could be turned on.

WiFi Risks

Now that hackers are up to speed with WiFi networks, they don’t need to get into your room to access your computer. Their simplest method is to tell you to download new software when you first connect to the hotel network. This is an evolved form of the spy-technician scam of previous years. Now, those keystroke logging and controller programs are presented as necessary connection software. Either that or they masquerade as updates for software that is already on the computer.

Cybersecurity provider Kaspersky Labs reported in 2014 on its discovery of a hacking group from South Korea, called Darkhotel. Darkhotel specializes in getting spyware onto hotel guests’ computers. This group can install spyware remotely over WiFi networks in hotels in North and South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Russia, Mozambique, the US, the UAE, Ireland, Italy, and Germany. And it keeps on spreading. The team uses a standard “man in the middle” method to access hotel guests’ computers. This scam is usually achieved by creating a fake WiFi hotspot. The hotspot passes all traffic onto the genuine hotel network. It also monitors outbound traffic and sends in its own downloads of self-installing spyware.

NSA Hacking Tools

A hacking tool created by the US’s NSA has come in very handy for Russia’s GRU military intelligence operatives. EternalBlue was riffled from NSA computers by the Shadow Brokers hacker group. This tool helped spread the Wannacry and NotPetya ransomware attacks in May and June 2017. It also helps the GRU take over entire hotel networks. The Russian military and Chinese authorities use a similar blend of public and private sector resources to achieve their spying aims. When hacker groups coordinate with state spying agencies, they get funding for development and legal cover. The military gets to intrude into government defense systems and development centers of weapons manufacturers. Meanwhile, hacking groups focus on personal and financial data for blackmail and robbery.

Underground hacker groups help governments extend their surveillance beyond national borders and into the hotel networks of many countries. There is no longer a distinction between “high risk” and “safe” hotels.

VPNs for Hotels

You need to install a VPN on your laptop and phone before you check into a hotel. All of the VPNs in our list will protect your privacy from hackers. Make sure you set up your VPN to provide maximum coverage. Most VPNs have a settings page within the app. Set the VPN to engage as soon as the computer starts up. Also, turn on the “kill switch” and the setting that sets up automatic WiFi protection. Finally, turn on all malware and tracker blocking options that the software offers.

These settings should prevent hackers from getting into your computer remotely. The VPN will block all internet access as soon as the computer wakes up. That buys time for the VPN connection to get established and provide full protection against hijacking. Similarly, if the VPN connection drops, no further internet access is possible until the VPN is re-engaged.

Repressive governments use surveillance software produced by an Italian cybersecurity company called Hacking Team. This software producer is not actually a group of hackers. The software it creates is not for security. The Hacking Team’s products are built for intrusion and monitoring by government agencies, including the military and the police. Unfortunately, things got a whole lot worse for individuals who want to preserve their privacy when hackers looted the Hacking Team’s software in 2015. Darkhotel has added the Hacking Team’s Remote Control Systems to its arsenal. Now, you’re up against some very sophisticated spying methods when you check into a hotel. Get top quality VPN software and keep it turned on all the time.

VPN for Hotels: Conclusion

Cybercrime is getting increasingly obtrusive. Armies now employ these methods to destroy the infrastructure and create havoc in nations before they invade – ask the people in Georgia and the Ukraine what happened there before the Russian government seized large tracts of their countries. A seemingly insignificant event, such as connecting to hotel WiFi, can result in you becoming an agent of terrorists, looters, invaders, and traffickers. Don’t take any risks when you go to stay in hotel – get one of the five best VPNs for hotels today!

Image Credit: Peter Gudella/Shutterstock.com

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