As more and more things become connected to the internet, they all become more susceptible to hackers. So it should come as no surprise that even state-of-the-art hotel lock systems are now getting ransomed. Hackers recently penetrated the security system of a four-star hotel in Austria, leaving the hotel unable to create new keys. The system was only restored after the hotel agreed to pay a ransom in Bitcoin.
[Correction: This story originally erroneously reported that all guests were locked out of their rooms. But the larger cyberattack only shut down the system that allowed new keys to be made. Guests who already had keys were still able to get into their rooms. The hotel manager returned Motherboard's messages.]
The $400 per night Seehotel Jaegerwirt hotel in Austria has been hit by several cyberattacks, but it became a true nightmare scenario when the hackers got into the electronic key system. The hotel was unable to create new keys, and the hotel paid roughly the equivalent of $2120 to get their systems back up and running.
"The house was totally booked with 180 guests, we had no other choice. Neither police nor insurance help you in this case," the hotel's managing director, Christoph Brandstaetter, told an Austrian news outlet.
Contrary to earlier reports, guests weren't trapped inside their rooms, which is probably a move that the hackers are currently figuring out how to pull off. The hotel says that they're only coming forward because they know that their hotel is not the first to see this kind of hacking occur. And they want more attention paid to the kind of blackmail that's becoming more frequent in the hospitality industry.
Is stronger security the answer? It sounds like this particular hotel might not have the patience for it.
"We are planning at the next room refurbishment for old-fashioned door locks with real keys. Just like 111 years ago at the time of our great-grandfathers," the hotel manager told a local Austrian news website.
We've reached out to the hotel for additional comment about their timeline for switching to old fashioned locks. But given all the trouble they have been through, we're not expecting a prompt reply to our email. We may have to send our questions by carrier pigeon.