January 31, 2017 by

Cybercriminals Lock Hotel Guests Out of Room, Demand Ransom

The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, a luxury 4-starr hotel in Austria has revealed that it was the victim of a cyberattack which saw cybercriminals hack the hotel’s electronic key system, leaving hundreds of guests locked out of their rooms.

The hotel’s management revealed that its targeted IT system, while modern and one that is similar to many hotels in the industry, handles a number of operating processes including key cards. It has to be noted that management of the hotel went public to bring awareness to the dangers of cybercrime, according to a report by The Local.

Altogether, the hotel has been struck by cybercriminals thrice and the latest attack saw the culprits compromise the security key-card system. Guests could no longer get into their hotel rooms and new key cards could not be programmed for unknown reasons.

The cybercriminals promised to restore the system upon payment of 1,500 EUR (approx. $1600) in bitcoins.

Christoph Brandstaetter, managing director of the hotel, revealed there was no choice but to pay the ransom. He stated:

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 the 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 simply cheaper and faster for the hotel to pay the ransom rather than going through the process of restoring the key card system on their own.

Upon receipt, the cybercriminals unlocked the key registry system along with all other computers, rendering them operational again.

However, the malicious hackers wanted to strike again at a later time, as evidenced by a backdoor left behind in the system. However, the computers had been replaced by then with updated, more robust cybersecurity infrastructure installed, with some networks decoupled.

The repeated attacks have left the 111-year-old hotel resort to more traditional means. Doing away with technology, the hotel’s next refurbishment is likely to see door locks with keys, replacing the keyless card system.

Image credit: Seehotel Jaegerwirt

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LIFARS is a digital forensics and cybersecurity intelligence firm based in New York City. LIFARS is ranked as one of the top Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigations companies in 2016 and as one of the top cybersecurity companies in the New York metropolitan area for 2015 on the Cybersecurity 500 – a directory of the hottest and most innovative companies to watch in the cybersecurity industry.

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