A targeted threat against high level government and business leaders while staying in upscale hotels was exposed by security company Kaspersky Lab recently. The attack starts with a breach of the particular hotel’s Wifi network and the installation of malware even before the targeted guest arrives at the hotel. When the hotel guest connects to the hotel’s Wifi system by logging in using his last name and room number, the hackers are alerted and then send a pop-up alert regarding a necessary software update that needs to be clicked on and downloaded. The pop-up looks legitimate. In this particular group of targeted attacks, which Kaspersky has deemed “Darkhotel” the pop-up was for an update to Adobe Flash player, although it could be an update for any other program. The pop-up of course is phony and when the unwary victim clicks on the link, he downloads malware that enables the hacker to steal information from the victim’s laptop or other device. In this case, the information sought is for corporate espionage, but others using the same tactic could just as well use the technique to gather personal information for purposes of identity theft.
You can never be sure of the security of Wifi whether it is at a coffee shop or a hotel. A good option is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to get an encrypted communication mode whenever you use Wifi. It is important to be skeptical of any prompt to click on anything when you are on Wifi or anywhere else for that matter. Don’t click on links in emails, text messages or pop-ups unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate. In the case of software updates, it is a simple matter to check with the particular company at its website rather than click on a pop-up if you want to make sure that the update is legitimate. Even if an update is being offered by the company, you are better off accessing it through their website rather than a pop-up which may be just a counterfeit pop-up sent to you by an identity thief.