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Technology & Innovation

Hacking Keycard Locks Just Got Easier

Recent break-ins at several Texas hotels have been traced to a digital pickpocketing tool that takes advantage of a security vulnerability in locks found in millions of rooms worldwide.

What’s the Latest Development?

Reports of room break-ins at several hotels in Texas have alerted authorities to new pickpocketing technology that affects a certain model of keycard lock manufactured by the lock company Onity and used by hotels around the world. The device, which mimics the portable programming tool used to create hotel master keys, was actually demonstrated publicly on Onity locks by software developer Cody Brocious at the Black Hat information security conference in Las Vegas this past July. It didn’t open every lock in the beginning, but since that time other coders have refined the technology and have even gone so far as to post their results on YouTube. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Writer Andy Greenberg alerted Onity to the vulnerability in August, but the company only began implementing a basic patch after the break-ins were reported. In addition, Onity is asking its customers to cover the higher costs of more secure fixes, which may cause some hotels to avoid them, according to Brocious. Todd Seiders of the insurance company Petra Risk Solutions says that, although many of his hotel customers have fixed their locks, “We’re expecting incidents in which these devices are used to explode nationally…We’re going to get hit hard over the next year.”

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