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As hotels move to digitize and automate more of the tedious aspects of the hotel experience, a growing problem is emerging: The ability for malicious hackers to commandeer those functions for a quick buck.
Some hotels have begun allowing visitors to use their phones to unlock their rooms and order amenities. An attack on their app could see hotel goers trapped outside their rooms, ordering room service they never intended, or adjusting lights and temperature settings against their will. However, even hotels that use more traditional keycards are at risk: A luxury hotel in Austria found itself locked out of its computer system following a ransomware attack over the weekend.
The Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt, a resort in the Austrian Alps, paid approximately $1,600 in Bitcoin to attackers after being unable to access its reservation system or issue new key cards to guests for 24 hours. Police were unable to help in the situation; however they told hotel manager Cristoph Brandstaetter that his hotel was “one of many companies hacked recently.”
Ransomware is a growing threat to our increasingly digital world (in fact, the Center for Internet Security dubbed 2016 the “Year of Ransomware“). In December, San Francisco’s MTA was attacked by ransomware that prevented its systems from accepting payment from passengers. Earlier this month, Washington, D.C.’s closed-circuit TV system was also hit by ransomware, and it took three days to restore functionality.
Following this weekend’s events though, the Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt has had enough. In an interview with a local news organization, Brandstaetter said that the hotel plans to switch back to “old-fashioned door locks with real keys,” just like the hotel used 111 years prior.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.