Safely Printing at a Hotel

When using a hotel’s Business Center or other shared computer; I’m always nervous about the types of malware, viruses, or keyloggers might be installed on the computer. I never login to any accounts. Even if I have two factor authentication, I’d rather not give a criminal the opportunity to gather my password. When I have to print something, I’ve been printing to PDF from my personal computer, transferring the file to a USB flash drive, and printing the PDF on the hotel’s computer. This approach made me feel better, but I still felt like there was the opportunity for a virus on the hotel computer to infect my flash drive. What I needed was a way to prevent the hotel computer form writing to the USB flash drive. A hardware write-protect switch seemed to be the answer.

Now-days, USB flash drives with write-protect switches are pretty rare. After extensive searching on, NewEgg, and Tiger Direct; I was only able to find a single modern flash drive with a write-protect switch. The Kanguru Flashblu 2 series of drives.

The other option is to use an SD card. Pretty much all of these have a write-protect switch, but the write-protection is in the card reader, not the card itself. There is a small mechanical switch in the SD card reader that detects if the SD card’s switch is in the lock position. While it’s unlikely someone trying to infect your card will have physically tampered with the SD card reader, it’s safer to bring your your own SD card reader.

Once you have your lockable memory, just unlock it, copy your pdf, lock the memory, insert into the hotel computer and print. Since malicious software can still read the data off of your memory, make sure you don’t store or print any sensitive files. I only print un-important things like movie tickets, directions, and other passes.

Be safe!