Modern tech leads to hotel hack in Austria
Friday, February 17, 2017
Technology is often a synonym for progress. Yet, when it leads to crime, we may find it easy to revert to simpler, pre-tech methods.
Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, a 111-year-old hotel in Austria, has had a harrowing time thanks to cybercrime. Hackers targeted the hotel and breached its keycard system, making it impossible for some hotel employees and guests to use the rooms until a ransom amount of more than $1,600 was paid.
Once the ransom was paid, however, the hackers were quick to see further opportunity. Investigators later discovered that the savvy hackers had a left a backdoor into the hotel's systems for future exploitation. They did so two more times.
The hotel had to bring in cyber-defense professionals to replace the older system with new, fully-patched ones. The experts hired to resolve the issue "decoupled" the systems to prevent future attacks, a strategy applied by many organizations fighting cyber-attacks on critical systems.
But as the managing director of the hotel, Christoph Brandstaetter, stated to a local Austrian website, the best defense might be to go back to an old-school system. The next time it renovates, the hotel plans to put keyed locks back on every guest room door.
The convenience of the smart key card systems is coupled with familiarity. Most of us don’t even remember the pre-key card days. But hotels may have to revert back for now for their customers’ safety.
Along with decoupling, another method applied by security firms is micro-segmentation, where each individual system on the network is expected to be a potential threat. Restricted access and the limited resources available to each system will aid in shutting them down when a breach is detected.
This will prevent hackers from gaining complete access and disrupting service like before, minimizing the damage.
The hack in Austria was not the first instance of hotels being subjected to cybercrimes, though.
British-owned InterContinental Hotels Group was recently struck by malware that may have led to potential breaches of guests’ credit and debit card data, which were then sold to illegitimate marketplaces. Intercontinental is now working with security companies to improve its existing security measures and prevent future hacks.
Other British hoteliers have faced similar hacks of their booking and key card systems.
Two high-end hotels in Cornwall, England, were hacked, with the perpetrators promising to return access once their ransom demands were met. In this case, however, their ransom demands were ignored, but the hotels did have to spend a fortune to overhaul their IT systems and make them more secure.
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