Marriott International made headlines last October after a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) probe revealed that employees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville had prevented guests from connecting to the internet via their own personal hot spot. In response, the hotel group asserted that it has a strong interest in ensuring that guests are protected from “rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft”. Marriott subsequently petitioned to the FCC for the ability to block guests’ personal Wi-Fi. Eventually, the petition was withdrawn in the wake of criticism from guests and IT giants Google and Microsoft. The question that lingers on one’s mind is whether it is really safer to connect to a hotel’s Wi-Fi or is it just a hotel’s veiled attempt at marketing its Wi-Fi services?
Luke Klink, a security programs strategy consultant for Rook Security, believes that turning a phone into a personal hot spot to connect a laptop or any device to the internet with the appropriate security configurations are definitely a better choice than connecting to a hotel’s Wi-Fi. Ryan Olson, Unit 42 intelligence director for security firm Palo Alto Networks, adds that even if a guest chooses to use a hotel’s Wi-Fi, using a virtual private network (VPN) may help to encrypt all incoming and outgoing data from a computer and helps to prevent unwanted eavesdropping.
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 11 percent of hotels charge for in-room connectivity. Fees range from as low as $4 per day up to $25 a day. Marriott Rewards club members enjoy free basic access and can pay a small fee for premium access. This is similar to the policy adopted at some hotels, where guests are offered free basic access but have to pay more for higher bandwidth.