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November 12, 2014

Darkhotel threat dismissed as ‘scaremongering’

Wi-Fi provider says less than 5% log into hotel network using affected method.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The Wi-Fi provider responsible for internet access at the Ritz London, Park Plaza and Holiday Inn Express hotels has condemned reports of the Darkhotel virus hacking businessmen as "scaremongering".

Executives were said to be carefully targeted using their names and room numbers, according to the security company Kaspersky, but Airangel believes less than 5% of its customers use such a bill-to-room system to enable internet access.

David Riches, technical director at Airangel, said: "My direct response is that it’s pretty sound advice to treat every unknown network as a threat and not download unknown software.

"My thought is that it’s scaremongering and that it’s going to make people think the Wi-Fi is less secure than it is. If people were actually targeted like it says it would be easier to steal your laptop."

Airangel manages 2,000 sites across the UK, including hotels, conference centres and campsite, with about 80% of such venues requiring just an email address to connect to the internet, and 15% requiring nothing more than acceptance of terms and conditions.

Email addresses are collected to help police in accordance with the Digital Economy Act 2010, which requires Wi-Fi providers to retain certain network data for two years, but can also be used for marketing purposes.

Riches said that "the majority of customers are very poor" about using the data for advertising purposes, but added that the hotels collect similar data through other methods.

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Kaspersky said: "Cybercriminals aren’t interested in a laptop or e-mail addresses in isolation, but in stealing a victim’s online ID and gaining access to all the resources they are able to connect to.

"Such information is not stored on the laptop itself, but on company servers, e-mails or other remote resources."

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