Security & Fraud

Ransomware’s Latest Victim — Hotels

Name any connected device or object, and there’s a chance it will be hacked. From baby monitors to smartphones and beyond, there’s virtually nothing that can’t be breached and/or compromised.

According to The New York Times, the latest hacking scandal comes from an Austrian hotel, Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, where over 180 guests were locked out of their rooms. Through a ransomware attack, there was no guest electronic keycard that was safe — each one had been hijacked by a sneaky hacker. The hotel’s managing director, Christoph Brandstaetter, was asked to deliver two bitcoin (roughly $1,800) to an enclosed bitcoin wallet account or risk the possibility of losing entry into rooms and potential business from upset guests. To quickly assuage hotel guests’ concerns, Brandstaetter decided to pay the money.

Is this the best way to resolve cyberattack scenarios?

One expert that doesn’t agree with this strategy is Tony Neate, a former cybercrime investigator with the British police force, who remains a strong advocate for not paying ransoms on cyberattacks. If ransoms are paid without hesitation, Neate hypothesizes that this type of cyberattack will only continue and that there may be a possibility the funds are being used for criminal activity.

With the FBI reporting that the money funneling from victims to the hands of cybercriminals rose from $24 million in 2015 to $209 million in the first three months of 2016, it’s no wonder experts are pushing for a stronger defense.

What’s the cause for this increased influx of cyberattacks?

Some are looking to the normalization of hacking in today’s popular culture as the answer. From the crime dramas of “Law & Order” and “The Good Wife,” to shows that specifically focus on hacking, like “Mr. Robot,” cyberattacks have become an issue that most people around the world have awareness of on some level. In order to better safeguard against future cyberattacks, Neate suggested hotels, like the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt in Austria, ramp up their digital security practices and teams. Now, although Brandstaetter paid the ransom for his hotel’s digital break-in, he’s now considering moving back to an old school security approach: handing out real keys to the locks on each hotel room door.

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