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January 31, 2017

Did hackers really trap hotel guests in their rooms with ransomware?

Ransomware was one of the fastest growing online threats in 2016.

By Tom Ball

A cyber-attack is reported to have hit the central key management system of the luxury hotel Romantik Seehotel  Jägerwir in the Austrian Alps. The hackers used ransomware and demanded a bitcoin payment.

The hotel has since confirmed that hackers demanded 1,500 euros in bitcoin currency before releasing the system.

The initial report said that the attack had locked hotel guests in their rooms until the ransom was paid, but this has since been rebuked by the owner of the hotel Cristoph Brandstaetter.

Brandstaetter told Motherboard that the attack was “just a normal cyber-attack”, and that in fact “no guests were locked in” their rooms.

Hackers hit Austrian hotel with ransom

The hotel has expressed an interest in opening up about the story so as to raise awareness to the growing potential for cyber-attacks, and the integral functions they can compromise. Allegedly the hotel has made a move to return to a standard key system, so as to negate the risk of a further attack.

The British security blogger Graham Cluley commented on the story with a considerable degree of doubt. After some scrutiny of the types of locks used by the hotel, and noticing the lack of comments from distraught guests trapped in their rooms, he surmises that this part of the story is ‘clearly cobblers’.

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Cluley goes on to also question the legitimacy of the story in general, finding the hotel’s coming forward with the story to be ‘surprisingling altruistic behaviour’, in regard to the damage it would surely have on business.

Chase Cunningham, Director of Cyber Operations at A10 Networks said: “Ransomware was one of the fastest growing online threats in 2016, and it will become more serious and more frequent in 2017. This is yet another example of a business paying thousands to free their data from the grip of threat actors – this unsuspecting hotel and its customers demonstrates how the bad guys are expanding their targets in their ransom efforts, which are becoming more elaborate by the day.”

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