New Hacker Trick: Locking All Hotel Guests Out Of Rooms, Demanding Ransom

Image courtesy of Ariel Schlesinger

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects computers and smartphones, encrypting the data on them and locking up the device, making it unusable. This is pretty bad when it happens to your personal device and you have no backup, but imagine an entire hotel full of guests locked out of their rooms because the hotel staff has been locked out of the computer system.

Ransomware is becoming alarmingly common: ordinary people are infected and have to very quickly learn what bitcoin is, and even devices like smart TVs are infected and held for ransom.

FURTHER READING: Bitcoin: What The Heck Is It, And How Does It Work?

Hospitals, offices, police stations,and even an entire public transit system have been infected with malware, and victims have paid up.

One Kansas hospital paid the ransom only to have the perpetrators come back and ask for more money. Another hotel paid $17,000 to get access to its files back.

Experts recommend restoring files from a backup (you back up your devices regularly, right?) and not paying the ransom, since the money will fund more ransomware attacks or something even more nefarious.

The New York Times described an incident where ransomware struck a hotel in the Austrian Alps. The attack took out the key card system, leaving guests without a way to get into their rooms and keeping staff from creating new key cards.

While the hotel staff didn’t want to give in and pay the ransom of 2 bitcoin (now worth about $1,845) they were stuck between their own locked-out guests and hackers that the managing director of the hotel described as “very pushy.”

Now the hotel in Austria is considering a drastic upgrade to its security system: changing out the electronic locks for old-fashioned metal keys. You can’t reprogram them in a few seconds with a computer, but you can’t hack them, either.