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A Master Key That Can Open Millions Of Hotel Rooms Worldwide

Researchers have discovered a way to gain access to millions of hotel rooms; creating a master key that exploits a flaw in a widely used electronic lock system that gives the user access to every room in the building.

Master Key

The computer security company, F-secure, discovered the flaw with the key cards used by some of the world's largest hotel chains, including Intercontinental, Radisson and Sheraton Hotels and Resorts.

After a colleague's laptop was stolen from his hotel room, researchers Timo Hirvonen and Tomi Tuominen were inspired to look closely at the digital locking systems used by hotels.

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They discovered flaws in the key cards made by Assa Abloy, the largest lock maker in the world, that could be exploited and allowed them to create a master key using any key card in a hotel, even if it had expired.

With a special portable device and custom software, a hacker can scan a key card to retrieve information. This device can be used to enter any room of the property without any limitations. Alternatively, the data recovered from the card can be copied to a blank key card.

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According to F-Secure, this attack works both in magnetic stripe and in more sophisticated RFID hotel cards.
F-Secure will not disclose any code or all the details of the vulnerability, but informed Assa Abloy of the problem and is working with them to resolve it.

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