How to Hack Hotel Wifi

Using Onomatology

2-min read

According to updated numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 99.98% of all housing units and addresses nationwide were accounted for in the 2020 Census as of the end of self-response and field data collection operations on Oct. 15, 2020. Let’s leverage this data for common good. Here, I take advantage of frequently common surnames to gain free wifi access at hotels.

Many hotels ask you to provide your last name and room number to use their WiFi. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, around 3% (or ~8,863,537) of people have

Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, or Jones as surnames. // 2.87*

And this number is only increasing. Therefore, theoretically, in a hotel with 50 rooms, there is a 78% chance that one could sign in by just trying these names for each room. It would be trivial to write a script that accepts a range of numbers and a list of surnames and generate pairs of permutation of combinations for input.

In fact, when I tested this using Smith as a proxy, I got access by my ninth room.

YMMV, but I doubt this would be theoretically possible in India. Too many edge cases.

I’ve curated a list of common surnames in each country (sorted first by region, then alphabetically) that could potentially save you on incidental costs during travels:


Bangladesh (Bangla Romanization): Ahmed, Ali, Akhtar
China: Wong, Lee, Cheung, Chan
Japan: Sato, Suzuki
Korea: Kim, Lee, Park, Choi
Philippines: Santos, Reyes, Cruz
Turkey: Yilmaz, Kaya, Demir, Şahin // does the cedilla hook-tail in Şahin count?
Vietnam: Nguyen, Tran, Le, Pham, Phan // 70.1%

Also, I thought it would be interesting to share this tidbit presented at the 1997 International Conference on Computer Processing of Oriental Languages in HK:

There are no common Thai surnames. Surnames were largely introduced to Thai culture only by the 1913 Surname Act. The law does not allow one to create any surname that is duplicated with any existing surnames. Under Thai law, only one family can create any given surname: any two people of the same surname must be related, and it is very rare for two people to share the same full name. In one sample of 45,665 names, 81% of family names were unique.


Denmark: Nielsen, Jensen, Hansen // patronymic ending in Norse -sen (son of)
France: Martin, Bernard, Dubois, Thomas, Robert, Richard
Germany: Müller, Schmidt, Schneider, Fischer // I wonder if umlaut's are required or they sanitize input
Ireland: Murphy, O'Kelly, O'Sullivan, Walsh, Smith // ^ same question with apostrophes
Italy: Rossi, Russo, Ferrari // From Mappa dei Cognomi website
Malta: Borg, Camilleri, Vella // 9.3%
Portugal: Silva, Santos, Ferreira // 20.65%
Russia (transliterated): Smirnov, Ivanov, Kuznetsov // 3.81%. Again, do they use the Cyrillic Alphabet or Anglicised form?
Spain: Garcia, Fernández, González, Rodríguez // 3.48% just for Garcia! Cumulative total is 9.78%. Diacritic-safe? Maybééé.
Sweden: Johansson, Nyman, Lindholm, Karlsson, Andersson // .677
United Kingdom: Smith, Jones, Taylor, Brown, Williams // 3.55%. Two sides of the same coin with regards to The States.

In Greater London, Patel shoots up to third place.


Fiji: Kumar, Prasad, Chand, Singh, Lal, Sharma

I need to read up more on the Indian indenture system (read: slave trade) in Fiji…

South America

Argentina: Fernández, Rodríguez, González // 3.828%
Brazil: Silva, Santos, Sousa // Silva 10.5%, total at 22.2%
Chile: González, Muñoz, Rojas // 11%
Paraguay: González, Benítez, Martínez // 15.64%

8 of the top 11 surnames end with ‘ez’, the distinctive suffix of Castilian family names. The suffix means ‘son of’. This is similar to the suffix ‘son’ in English and to ‘ic’ or ‘ich’ of Slavic names .

Peru: Quispe, Flores, Sánchez // 6.35%

Yes, I know, I’ve missed a lot of countries, but 24 should be comprehensive enough. :-)