Your hotel room can be hacked with a ‘dry erase marker’
One of the nice things about traveling is staying in a hotel—assuming you pick the right hotel. You get a nice comfy bed, perhaps some free breakfast in the morning, and people to come in and tidy up everyday. One thing you probably don’t expect, though, and wouldn’t appreciate, is having an unauthorized visitor enter your room while you’re not there.
Well, depending on what type of key system is used at the hotel you’re staying in, it might be possible for someone with a “dry erase marker” to bypass the door key system and walk right in. No, you can’t circumvent hotel door security with an actual dry erase marker, but security researchers recently demonstrated a tool disguised as a dry erase marker, which can be used to access some hotel door locks.
The locks in question are used in more than four million rooms, found in 22,000 hotels around the world. Is your preferred hotel chain one of them? Perhaps. The manufacturer of the affected lock system has promised to fix it ASAP.
Regardless of what hotel chain you stay in, or whether or not your room is affected by this flaw, there are certain precautions you can use to protect your valuables. For starters, you should be using strong security software on your laptop, tablet, and smartphone, and you should have strong authentication in place to prevent unauthorized access. That way, even if someone does steal your device they still won’t be able to access the sensitive information it contains.
In some hotels you can go a step farther to ensure your device doesn’t fall into the wrong hands in the first place. Many hotel rooms have a safe in the room for valuables. The safe is typically small—only large enough for a standard laptop—but, large enough to store your mobile devices, passport, wallet, or any jewelry you might want to safeguard while you’re attending a conference or swimming in the hotel pool.
If you’re staying in a hotel room that doesn’t offer a safe of some sort, you can turn to the hotel itself. Check with the concierge, or the front desk if the hotel doesn’t have a concierge, and see if there is a safe of some sort available for the hotel in general, or if they offer any sort of service that allows you to leave valuable electronic devices or personal items with them.
If neither of those options exist at your hotel, there are a couple other things you can do. If you have a car available—either your own or a rental car—you could lock your valuables in the trunk. Depending on where you are, though, it might get very hot in the trunk of the car, which could be bad for some electronic devices.
As a last resort, you can simply try to obscure the items within the room yourself. Either bury them under clothing and other things in your luggage, or hide them under clothing in a drawer. Anything you can do to hide them so they aren’t obvious to someone walking into the room.
Regardless of whether your hotel room is affected by this particular hack, it’s certainly not invulnerable and you shouldn’t leave your valuables out in the open. Follow these tips to protect your stuff so you can focus on enjoying the trip.