Cyber security warning: Airbnb WiFi could be infected by previous guest

Posted at 7:49 PM, Aug 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-05 19:50:41-04

There are new tactics sophisticated hackers are using to swipe your valuable information. 

The warning comes from a cyber-security expert who advises Airbnb clients to be careful when using a stranger's WiFi connection. 

"I'm a more affordable place than a hotel," said Chris Georgetti. 

Georgetti turned his spare space into a home away from home for dozens of strangers looking to save on their travel budget. 

His house in Riverview is listed on Airbnb, an online marketplace where people can rent rooms while traveling. 

"You really don't know who has touched that WiFi network before," said cyber security expert Michael LaPlante. "So you're running a lot of risks."

Tech experts say you should be on alert when connecting your smart phone or computer to a rental's WiFi internet connection. They say it could be infected by a previous guest. 

A would-be hacker can locate the host's WiFi router, hold down the reset button, then turn on a feature giving them access -- potentially compromising bank accounts, emails and passwords. 

Georgetti has his guests use a separate hot spot and router. 

"We both are really worried about the access to our data that we use for other companies, and we don't want that to be exposed," said Georgetti. 

LaPlante, a senior web engineer with FireEye Cyber Security says that's an easy way to protect your online identify. 

"It's completely self-contained; it doesn't have access to anything that's on your network," said LaPlante. "You can keep yours locked up somewhere else where they don't have access to it, and all that will keep you pretty protected." 

Experts also recommend guests use a VPN -- or virtual private network -- when logging on to unfamiliar WiFi. 

Airbnb issued a statement to ABC Action News regarding cyber security threats: 

At Airbnb, we take cyber attacks and identity theft very seriously. Guests should know that when then are using someone else's wifi, whether it's in an Airbnb, at a Starbucks or on a plane, it is not a secure network.  We advise all hosts to lock up personal documents and to put their mail on hold. There are a number of other simple things our hosts can do to help prevent against these types of attacks and we encourage hosts to take the following steps below to better protect themselves.

In addition, if there are any concerns at all, we offer our hosts AllClearID free, for one year.