A New Device Helps Thieves Crack Hotel Locks

Hotel Lock HackA simple, new device is unlocking hotel doors at some of the country’s most popular hotels outfitted with Onity locks,

Worse, said CNBC, some of these hotels have been aware of this major security issue for months. According to a CNBC investigation, thieves invented a tiny device that appears to be able to unlock doors at some popular hotel chains, including Hyatt, Ramada, and Hilton’s Doubletree. In fact, security expert, Jim Stickley, collaborated with CNBC using a homemade gadget that popped open electronic doors and broke into a hotel room in a matter of seconds.

For its report, CNBC booked a number of rooms in New Jersey hotels and watched as Stickley opened room after room at a number of hotels. Hotel managers were shocked at the results. “That’s absolutely insane,” one hotel manager told CNBC after watching Stickley’s demonstration.

The tiny device can be easily hidden within a magic marker and, now, criminals are learning how to make the device by watching online videos. “Do you have to be a computer whiz to build one of these?” CNBC asked Stickley. “No, you could be a village idiot,” Stickley said “Just go online and you can find step-by-step instructions and be done in a half hour,” he added.

Thieves plug in the device, which becomes a sort of master key that bypasses the deadbolt, enabling room access, CNBC explained. Because the device can trip up some of the most common locks used in hotels globally, the impact could be in the millions of rooms. The problem has left consumers with minimal options.

CNBC said that, according to its experts, consumers, for now, should always use the security door chain when in their rooms and the hotel safe for valuables if they are unable to take them with them.

The hotel industry and the company that makes the locks, Onity, have been aware of the problem since July and Onity claims it announced available solutions, but not every hotel questioned by CNBC was aware of the issue. Onity, meanwhile, told CNBC that safety is its highest priority, they have fixed some 1.4 million locks, and “all customer requests for these solutions have already been fulfilled or are in the process of being fulfilled.” Onity also said it provided some hotels with a free plastic cap to cover the port and while industry says they work, Stickley disagrees. “They’re silly…. They’re basically a temporary fix at best.” CNBC asked, “Can a criminal still get through that?” Stickley responded, “Absolutely. It just takes a screwdriver and a minute.”

Following a number of hotel room break-ins and thefts, Onity said it will upgrade the locks, but the upgrade might cost some hotels, said The Verge.

CNBC asked Joe McInerny, president of the industry group representing hotels, if the responsibility is with hotels. And while he agreed that this a hotel issue, he could not provide a time line for a solution saying, “Can’t tell you…. I don’t have a crystal ball.”

Meanwhile, Petra Risk Solutions’ director of risk management, Todd Seiders, told Forbes that some of the verbiage in lock replacement contracts might leave Onity free of any liability for future, similar issues, said The Verge.

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