The Disturbing Reality of Guest Network Security

Brendan Patterson's picture

17 Dec 2014 By Brendan Patterson
Categories: Wireless Access


New WatchGuard functionality enhances security and convenience to better protect guest network users across hotel, restaurant and other hospitality organizations

Life on the road no longer means losing touch. Today’s global travelers rely on Internet access for both work and pleasure, whether it’s responding to business email, planning vacation activities or staying connected with loved ones still at home. In fact, a recent study found that free Wi-Fi is now the most important in-room hotel amenity – even higher than a bathroom with shower and daily housekeeping.[i]

Luckily, travelers today have Internet access while on the go with hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and many other hospitality locations that offer free Wi-Fi guest network access. But, are users getting more than they bargained for?

WatchGuard recently surveyed hospitality organizations across the globe to map out the most common guest network security controls and protocols. Surprisingly, 71 percent do not provide unique temporary user passwords for guest Wi-Fi networks.[ii] That’s alarming since universal password protection (or worse, no password protection) invites unwelcome guests that have anything but hospitality on their minds.

The survey goes deeper, finding that 51 percent of global hospitality organizations do not monitor guest networks for suspect applications, malware or malicious activities; 62 percent do not monitor guest activity to limit bandwidth-intensive applications; and 48 percent do not use policy mapping or data visualization tools to monitor performance.[iii]

These statistics show a complete lapse in standard security protocols that could very easily compromise guest network user security (not to mention connected corporate networks). Lacking visibility and monitoring also impacts overall guest network performance and user experience on top of the growing security risks.

Security threats are growing in complexity with many of the latest major breaches initiating via hotel or other guest networks. The DarkHotel threat targets hotel guests and has already been downloaded more than 30,000 times in a few short months. Plus, the Sony hack is reported to have originated via a hotel network.

The good news is that hospitality organizations now have options to quickly and easily strengthen guest network security. WatchGuard today announced functionality to better protect guest network users across hotel, restaurant and other hospitality organizations. These new features allow hospitality organizations to:

  • Provide custom, branded hotspot splash pages
  • Provide flexible account options, such as:
    • Configurable time limits
    • Batch-generated usernames and passwords
    • Password-only voucher options
  • Minimize liability with custom terms and conditions.
  • Allow guest administrator roles for non-IT staff to generate accounts

Click here to learn more about the technical specifications of today’s hospitality guest network announcement.

[i] Hotels.com: http://press.hotels.com/en-us/news-releases/travelers-rank-complimentary-breakfast-and-free-wi-fi-as-the-most-valuable-hotel-amenities-in-global-survey/

[ii] WatchGuard Technologies 2014 Global Hospitality Wireless Network Survey

[iii] IBID