Most hotels offer wi-fi but will charge you the cost of a hostel room for one. It’s expensive but there are a few tips and tricks you can try – some of which I’m certain aren’t legal. Whether you do them or not is up to you but these tactics are another part of a traveler’s guide to hacking wireless networks.
Start With The Obvious
Go to the lobby and ask if they have any promotions, coupons, or ways you can test the Internet connection without actually paying for it. Like the gift shop at many airports, you can sometimes get a complimentary hour or so of wi-fi if you just ask. We’ll assume that this didn’t work and there is no free Internet available. The next step is to download NetStumbler, or some application like it, to detect all of the wireless networks active within range. (You can extend this range using a long range USB antenna.) There might be an open access point in a nearby apartment complex that you can use to get online.
- Remember, think like a hacker and go from easiest to hardest. Try to go around security, not through it.
- Do Some URL Hacking. According to this method, adding a ?.jpg at the end of a website you want to get to may just work (i.e. http://www.google.com/search?.jpg)
Find The Walls
These methods aren’t full proof and you’ll need to set aside about 10-15 minutes to test a few things but the strategy is the same. For most people “online” is synonymous with a Web browser. Know that for most hotel wi-fi, there is gateway put up between your machine and the Internet which blocks mostly certain types of Internet traffic and queries. Also, in addition to blocking, the gateway must have a way to authenticate which computers and people have paid are allowed Internet access.
- Change Some HTML - Vinh Pham has a clever little hack around the wireless at Hilton hotels, which encodes their wi-fi pricing in HTML. That means it’s easily changeable, and a good way to do so is to download the free Firebug, find the price ($) value, and change it to something closer to zero.
Some Advanced Hacking
These two methods are for advanced users or those who’ve got insomnia and are trying to get online to watch the latest episode of Lost. Thomer has two methods to try and work your way using NSTX (you’ll need your own server) or ICMPTX. Like I said, these methods are gritty but it won’t hurt you to give them a try (preferably from a virtual machine).
Below is a method (demonstrated on Mac, but possible on Windows/Linux as well) where you change (spoof) your IP and MAC addresses to match someone else who has already authenticated and is on the network.
This is just the beginning of wireless hotspot hacking, most places implement different types of blocks and you’ll have to be adept at finding and manipulating IP and MAC addresses. It may sound intimidating but it’s free to try and you won’t won’t be out any money if you fail.