When you think of any security vulnerability in a hotel, you probably don’t think of door locks.

After all, with the latest door locking systems requiring keycard entry that usually expires after departure, gaining access would be the stuff of science fiction, surely?

A malicious master key

Research by IT security experts F-Secure has discovered a design flaw in a popular range of door locks that enables a master key to be created and used to open any room (even if the key in question has expired).

Thankfully, this particular security vulnerability was quickly addressed by the vendor of the door lock system. It was a software-related issue, which meant the patch could be issued quickly, but this illustrates how one of the most important guest security devices is just as vulnerable to cybercrime as any other form of technology.

The reaction to address the security vulnerability was impressively swift on behalf of the lock vendor, but that doesn’t mean hotels using the system in question are out of the woods just yet.

Slow update response

No matter how quickly a patch of this kind is issued, the problem with updates for door lock systems is that they need to be implemented either by the hotel or with the help of the supplier.

That often results in slow uptake of the patch, or certain hotels missing it entirely. That means there is potentially millions of rooms in hotels across the world that are still vulnerable to this hack.

Clearly, the advice is to apply the latest software patches issued by your suppliers as soon as possible. This extends beyond door locking systems to your Hotel property management system (Hotel PMS) if it isn’t cloud hosted, the point of sale (POS) system, server hardware and all hotel-owned smartphones and tablets.

An important lesson

So far, it appears there haven’t been any major breaches as a result of the master key security vulnerability. This is thanks to ‘white hat’ experts who uncovered the issue long before their criminal counterparts could get their hands on it.

However, this is another lesson that illustrates how fallible technology can be when not kept up-to-date. Likewise, if you’re running a very dated system that is no longer supported by the manufacturer, this episode might be all the inspiration you need to invest in their latest offering.

Hotel technology is designed to deliver amazing guest experiences and make the lives of staff and guests easier. Despite this, convenience should never be swapped for a halfhearted approach to the security of a guest’s data or personal property.

Wrap up

If you’re considering implementing a new door locking system in your hotel, the security breach uncovered by F-Secure shouldn’t put you off opting for the solution at the heart of the story; their response was swift and decisive, and in the unpredictable world of technology, that counts for a lot.

The important takeaway is that, no matter what system you invest in, nor how often it’s used by hotel staff and guests, all hotel technology needs to be kept up-to-date.

But what about those really old systems that are no longer supported? Well, it’s time to put them to rest, for we now live in a world where all forms of technology can be targeted by cyber criminals. With so many of these tools linked directly to guest security, taking a chance with old systems is no longer an option.


InnQuest Software is a leading technology provider for the hospitality industry. For over 25 years, innQuest has combined hotelier experience with innovative technology to deliver an all-in-one solution that empowers hotels to attract guests, drive customer loyalty, and increase profits. Our flagship property management software, roomMaster, helps manage over 5,500 properties across 100 countries. InnQuest develops scalable solutions ranging from a Hotel PMS, Cloud PMS, Channel ManagerHotel CRM and helps properties enable guests to Book Direct. We believe that everyone deserves a great guest experience, whether they’re staying at a small B&B, a thousand-room resort, or anywhere in between.

Call us today at 1.813.288.4900, or email us at sales@innquest.com. We will be happy to walk you through innQuest’s solutions.