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Hackers extort ransom by locking hotel room doors

February 1, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Anonymous cybercriminals have successfully obtained a ransom payment from an international luxury hotel by hacking into the property’s computer system, overriding its codes, paralysing its reservations system and electronically locking the doors of all its guestrooms. 

The hackers chose peak season. Their novel extortion bid happened just over a week ago at the 111-year-old Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt in Austria. About 12 guests at the picturesque lakeside Alpine hotel suddenly found themselves locked out of their rooms.

Guests were stranded in the lobby, confused and panicky. The receptionist could not create new keys for them because the hackers had taken over the hotel’s whole computer system.

Bitcoins

 

Then came an email demanding ransom. The hotel’s managing director, Christoph Brandstaetter, told the New York Times the hackers demanded a ransom of two bitcoins (bitcoins are currently worth about AUD 1235 each) and warned the hotel that the cost would double if it did not pay up by the end of the day, 22 January 2017.

The email included details of a “bitcoin wallet” into which the money could be deposited, Brandstaetter said, and it concluded with the words “have a nice day!”

Brandstaetter faced a sudden crisis in his family-run hotel, which was full to capacity with about 180 guests, including skiiers and holidaymakers, some of whom paid the equivalent of AUD 700 for a luxury suite.

View of the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, from its website

 

Brandstaetter decided to pay up.

Police are investigating but the truth is that the attack could have come from just about anywhere. Some cyber-gangs are based in Russia or Eastern Europe, others are further afield. Bitcoins are a popular currency for ransom, as payments are hard to trace.

Brandstaetter told the paper he is now considering replacing the electronic locks on his hotel doors with reliable old-fashioned locks and traditional metal keys – the same sort that the hotel installed when Brandstaetter’s great-gradnfather founded it 111 years ago.

Hackers can lock hotel doors!

Written by Peter Needham

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