Home Security Hotel returns to locks and keys after ransomware attack

Hotel returns to locks and keys after ransomware attack

One of Europe's luxury hotels plans to get rid of its electronic key card room entry system and install old-fashioned locks with keys after it was hit by a ransomware attack that resulted in guests being locked out from their rooms.

Non-functioning key cards meant those who were inside their rooms could not go out as they would be unable to re-enter them, according to a report in The Local, an Austrian news website.

Managers at the 111-year-old Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, a luxurious four-star hotel located on the Alpine Turracher Hoehe Pass in Austria, disclosed details about their travails, saying they were doing so to warn others of what could happen when cyber criminals struck.

They said the hotel had experienced three such attacks, with the key card system being taken out of commission this time. Nothing could be done to effect entry or exit for guests, apart from physically breaking down the doors.

Programming new key cards was of no use because they would not work, the hotel said, adding that the latest attack came on the opening weekend of the winter season when all 180 rooms were taken. The actual date of the attack was not given.

austrian hotel

The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt. Photo: courtesy hotel website.

The ransomware attack shut down all computers in the hotel, including those which ran the reservation system and the accounting systems.

The message on the locked computers provided an address for the hotel to send €1500 in Bitcoin if it wanted to get its systems unlocked.

Managing director Christoph Brandstaetter said: "The house was totally booked with 180 guests, we had no other choice. Neither police nor insurance help you in this case.

"The restoration of our system after the first attack in summer has cost us several thousand euros. We did not get any money from the insurance so far because none of those to blame could be found."

He added that it was cheaper and faster for the hotel to just pay the ransom.

Brandstaetter said: "Every euro that is paid to blackmailers hurts us. We know that other colleagues have been attacked, who have done similarly."

Once the ransom was paid, the key registry system and all other computers were unlocked so the hotel could function as usual.

Brandstaetter said: "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."

Ransomware attacks are common these days with Windows systems coming under attack.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.