For clients who are visibly recognizable by the general public, or whose adversaries are sufficiently funded to deploy destination teams, we minimize exposure to the customary common areas of hotels. Hotels are pleasant and convenient venues for adversaries, excitable talkers with too much time on their hands, and Paparazzi to sit and people-watch. A traditional hotel is designed with elements that support hours of unrestrained people-watching and eavesdropping by almost any interested member of the public. Confidential information can be directly learned simply via eavesdropping or feigned conversations (especially against soft-target visitors of yours or by basic tradecraft such as wearing a uniform and carrying a clipboard.)
Many hospitality jobs at hotels are immediately and easily available, with notoriously high turnover and data-only instant background checks. As an employee, there are countless means to manipulate scenarios for access to your driver's license information (or for you to hand it over willingly), for your credit card (not usually for credit card fraud, but instead to be able to manipulate your card issuer for monitoring your card activity), to feign excuses for calls to your room and for informative conversations with you—and, of course, for access to your room. With access to your room, a variety of unnoticeable (even by counterintelligence officers—to the point that a bugsweep would be futile in most environments) wormholes can be perniciously opened.
Amateurs, investment fund consultants, private investigators, Paparazzi, and others reliably obtain room numbers of targets when they stay in hotels. Again, these are merely examples of some of the least sophisticated, lowest potency methods.
- A lobby provides public seating that is within clear range of visibility and eavesdropping for guest registration at the reception desk.
- The service-worker culture of polite subservience to patrons, combined with high-efficiency/low-security public environments, means that unknown adversaries can infiltrate in plain sight. Lounges and open seating are usually located at the fronts and sides of lobby restaurants. Anyone from the public can innocuously enter, and proceed to loiter for hours as if waiting for a companion. A routine technique, by both amateurs and professionals, is to make use of a lounge to watch and listen for a target to approach the restaurant's front desk. Then, an adversary could change seats within the lounge or confidently walk to a nearby table to eavesdrop and/or to monitor you. Before you leave, you would customarily charge the bill to the room number. By feigning a mistake, or by calmly feigning the role of a patron who is confirming something, your unknown adversary could slip your signed room charge into his pocket.
- Many hotels are structured with the visibility of the doorway for numbered rooms from publicly visible areas. Inherently as a hotel, a stranger does not draw suspicion by loitering from one of those vantage points—and are often treated to cushy chairs or even lounge service.
- Somehow obtaining your room number would rarely involve anything more than an immaterial amount of effort. Even at the amateur level, small tips/purchases and plausibly frantic excuses to soft-target employees in room service, bell staff, gift shops, and/or valet services will usually be successful at garnering your room number, and often other valuable intel and exploits.
Knowing your room number enables a wide variety of simple techniques that are frequently deployed, even amateur adversaries.
- An adversary could access your doorway on a keycard floor of a security-guarded hotel simply by registering himself for one night in a small room, even on the executive level, which falsely makes people feel secure.
- A well-dressed or falsely uniformed adversary could momentarily enter a room during housekeeping, make the housekeeper happy with a few dollars while mentioning that he wasn't sure if his wife had left a tip for her. He then can strategically drop a surveillance device, and leave seconds later without taking anything or otherwise causing any suspicion.
Now that you have a basic perspective, common sense would inevitably conjure some additional risks. A few seconds of initial thoughts can enable any amateur to identify vulnerabilities, which leads us to the thesis of this page that professional tradecraft is too effective and too swift for the porousness of customary hospitality. The perpetual effort of trying to plug holes under these conditions would be futile, and would distract you from your primary business objectives. Indeed, the efforts themselves would be self-defeating, drawing self-validating attention that you are a valuable bogey with observable soft-target methods, and would paint a map for adversaries of your vulnerabilities and opportunities.