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Survey: Guest network security lacking at many businesses

According to WatchGuard, seven out of 10 restaurants, hotels and other businesses don't take the necessary steps to secure their guest Wi-Fi networks.

Despite evidence that attackers are actively targeting users of complimentary Wi-Fi networks, a new survey has shown that most businesses fail to secure guest networks.

WatchGuard Technologies Inc., a network security vendor based in Seattle, surveyed hotels, restaurants and other businesses that offer Wi-Fi access to customers to determine whether they were taking the necessary precautions to secure those connections. The company found that 71% of respondents had failed to implement measures such as providing unique, temporary passwords to users connecting to guess networks.

Worse, more than half of those businesses admitted to not monitoring such networks for malicious traffic and malware. Beyond ignoring basic guest network security, 62% of responding companies also said they do not monitor bandwidth-intensive applications that can negatively affect all customers' Internet connections.

WatchGuard's survey comes just over a month after antivirus vendor Kaspersky Labs detailed the Darkhotel espionage campaign, which has targeted executives traveling abroad since at least 2007. Specifically, Kaspersky researchers discovered that the attackers behind Darkhotel preyed on targets connecting to Wi-Fi and physical Internet connections at luxury hotels, prompting executives to update widely used software like Adobe Flash and instead delivering a malware payload. Darkhotel's delivery mechanism was also sophisticated enough to only download the malware when specific guests logged onto hotel networks, while attackers were able to maintain a presence on the networks for years.

To help businesses improve their guest network security, WatchGuard Thursday announced new features coming to its next-generation firewall and unified threat management appliances, including time limits for account connections, batch-generated credentials and password-only voucher options.

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