Hacker finds flaw in hotel locks, can ruin your vacation with $50 DIY gadget
The next time you stay in a hotel room, run your fingers under the keycard lock outside your door. If you find a DC power port there, take note: With a few hacker tricks and a handful of cheap hardware, that tiny round hole might offer access to your room just as completely as your keycard.
At the Black Hat security conference Tuesday evening, a Mozilla software developer and 24-year old security researcher named Cody Brocious plans to present a pair of vulnerabilities he’s discovered in hotel room locks from the manufacturer Onity, whose devices are installed on the doors of between four and five million hotel rooms around the world according to the company’s figures. Using an open-source hardware gadget Brocious built for less than $50, he can insert a plug into that DC port and sometimes, albeit unreliably, open the lock in a matter of seconds. “I plug it in, power it up, and the lock opens,” he says simply.
In fact, Brocious’s break-in trick isn’t quite so straightforward. Testing a standard Onity lock he ordered online, he’s able to easily bypass the card reader and trigger the opening mechanism every time. But on three Onity locks installed on real hotel doors he and I tested at well-known independent and franchise hotels in New York, results were much more mixed: Only one of the three opened, and even that one only worked on the second try, with Brocious taking a break to tweak his software between tests.