Staying safe and protecting your valuables when away from home should always be a priority. Like most people, you might think that your electronically locked hotel door is secure enough to keep out the unwanted. There’s no physical lock to pick and you need a key card to get in, that’s good, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not. There’s a tiny device out there that can open approximately one third of all hotel doors in seconds.
Using an Arduino microcontroller and a few other components, almost anyone can build a device small enough to fit inside of a dry erase marker. This can then be used to unlock most hotel doors, including the dead bolt, in no time at all.
Watch the NBC News Report below and see what you think. What unnerves me the most about this situation is that the President of the American Hotel and Lodging Association doesn’t feel that guests are vulnerable. His statement? They have “extra security in a lot of the hotels.” It does look as if Onity is finally starting to fix this issue though. Forbes recently shared news of their progress a few days ago but with this being one of the most popular locks for hotel room doors, it may take a while to secure all of them.
Note: The purpose of showing this is to inform the public of this issue. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security in anything you do. We’ve always advocated providing information educates on the illusion of security.
This hack was discovered by Cody Brocious who posted an excellent writeup on how and why it works to open these types of locks.
Matt Jakubowski, a pentester for Trustwave SpiderLabs, did a test at home with an Onity door lock and a device he built himself.Image by Matt Jakubowski
What You Can Do
So now that you know how it all works, how can you secure yourself and your belongings? It’s probably a good idea to call the hotel ahead of time and find out if they use Onity locks on the doors and if they do, ask if the locks have been upgraded. Ultimately, no lock is truly safe, but staying at a hotel with a massive security breach is obviously not a good idea.
If you are already in the hotel and in the room, use the chain on the inside of the door. If someone manages to open your deadbolt from the outside (as this device can), they would only be able to open the door a couple of inches which would provide you time to call for help. Just don’t think that the chain is the be-all end-all answer, but it is an added safety measure. This obviously only works if you’re in the room.
When you leave the hotel, use the safe in the room or one at the front desk if they have them. The easiest solution is to simply bring your valuables with you. If you do have to leave items in the room, it may be good idea to hide them in plain sight. Here are some interesting ways to store your stuff when you leave your hotel room.
- Rubik’s Cube Safe
- Dr Pepper Can Safe
- Hidden Book Safe
- Coffee Mug Hidden Safe
- Barbasol Shaving Cream Safe
Do note that these aren’t truly “safes” as they don’t lock. They do however allow you to keep small items relatively secure. If you want to save money, get creative and try and make some of these yourself.
Another option is something like the Pacsafe steel mesh cabling, which covers your entire bag or pack and could possibly deter a thief. What’s nice about Pacsafe devices like the image on the right, is that it completely covers your luggage, it’s not just a cable lock that leaves the majority of your bag still exposed.
Face it though, all security is ultimately defeatable by someone or something. Take the approach that we like to mention, all security is just simply buying time…
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