Beware: public computers in hotels

It’s tempting to want to check your email or your bank and credit card accounts while you’re traveling this summer, but the only thing less safe than using public Wi-Fi on your vacation is using the public computers at your hotel.

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A group of attackers was arrested earlier this month after allegedly installing keylogging programs on hotel computers in the business centers of hotels in Texas, prompting the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Integrations Center to warn hoteliers across the country to up their security measures. By installing keylogging programs that recorded users’ keystrokes and emailing the data to external emails, these attackers were able to gain the login credentials for users’ email and financial accounts.

These types of scams are easily executed, and vacationers would be wise to treat the computers in their hotels with extreme caution. Want to go online to check the score of a baseball game? Go for it. Want to check your email? Use your phone or wait until you get to grandma’s house.

Keylogging scams are easily executed, and vacationers would be wise to treat the computers in their hotels with extreme caution.

But if it is absolutely necessary that you check your email and the only way to do it is on a public computer, don’t just hope that computer hasn’t been compromised – take precautions. Forward your mail – or have specific emails that you’re expecting forwarded – to a disposable email account like Mailinator or Trashmail that has a short life and a timed expiration. If you absolutely need to download a file, make the item shareable by link and have that link sent to this disposable address. The key here is that you are never using your personal logins for accounts – email, financial, file sharing services, etc. – that can be compromised if you login on a public computer.

They may not be the most convenient options, these workarounds, but they’re more convenient than spending hours online with your credit card company, resetting all of your passwords, losing control of personal and sensitive data or having your identity stolen.

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