Malware, Network Security, Vulnerability Management

Feds warn of booby-trapped hotel Wi-Fi connections

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) on Tuesday issued a warning to travelers to be on the lookout for malware on their hotel's wireless connection.

According to the alert, attackers are using the hotel's Wi-Fi hotspot to distribute malware to guests under the guise of a security update.

"In these instances, the traveler was attempting to set up the hotel room Internet connection and was presented with a pop-up window notifying the user to update a widely-used software product," the note said. "If the user clicked to accept and install the update, malicious software was installed on the laptop. The pop-up window appeared to be offering a routine update to a legitimate software product for which updates are frequently available."

Adversaries have heavily targeted the hospitality industry in recent years. In 2011, security firm Trustwave conducted more than 25 forensic investigations into compromises at hotels.

Nicholas Percoco, who heads the company's SpiderLabs research arm, told on Wednesday that hotels, thanks to weak passwords, unpatched systems or network segmentation issues, often are wide open to attack.

"It would not be a difficult feat to get something installed within the hotel network that would basically man-in-the-middle guests' web traffic," he said. "The attackers could then transparently modify HTTP responses to contain pop-up boxes asking users to download updates for their computer or web browser. If a user performed what the attackers asked them to do, this could be an easy way to get a backdoor on their systems to provide remote access into victim's computer."

IC3, a partnership among the FBI, National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, did not say how the attackers were able to perform the ruse, or which hotels have been affected. In the past, experts have encouraged users to be wary of fake Wi-Fi access points in places like hotels and airports.

The note asked travelers to try to install any necessary security updates before leaving for a trip, or at least visit the software vendor's website directly to download.

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