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The Truth About Recent Hotel Door Lock Security Revelations

As a Master Locksmith my reaction to this week’s news report about the F Secure revelation that hotel door locks worldwide are vulnerable to attack is that it usually takes something significant to occur before people recognise issues that have been staring them in the face for a long time!

In this case it was large scale with a fake master key giving access to millions of hotel rooms but there are many other issues when it comes to hotel security and unfortunately they mostly go unnoticed by guests and unaddressed by businesses in order to protect bottom line profits.

Poor Hotel Security Is Not Breaking News to Me

In my opinion security levels in hotels in general are not what they should be. I have written in the past about poor security in a hotel that my family and I stayed in. I think on the whole the general public are too trusting of the hotel industry and their obligation to care for the security of their guests.

Traditional Locks versus Electronic Locks

There is so much uncertainty when it comes to electronic locking systems. Here I evaluate keyless locks versus key operated locks. I fit mechanical digital door lock systems in favour of electronic digital door locks.  In my opinion it is usually the case that a more traditional locking method can be more reliable and secure and above all more straightforward. I believe that a mechanical lock can offer higher levels of security and certainty.  Mechanical locks have developed over the last years to produce some really high spec security products. Saying that, as quickly as they can be produced there will be someone working on how to crack the latest product.  The lock industry is constantly evolving. You can read more about The History of Locks here.

keyless lock

Electronic Door Locks Fitted to Hotel Rooms

Let’s face it key cards or fob systems are the most popular choice for hotels worldwide.  As MLA Approved Locksmiths we do install key card and fob systems however they are not our top recommendation for customers.  We provide the customer with information about the various locking systems available enabling them to make an informed decision. There are cases where our customers opt for a key card or fob system. It is our job to ensure the customer is well informed and provide them with a system that they choose.

Pros and Cons of an Electronic Door Lock System

Yes, electronic door locking systems can be convenient, versatile and track movements and a card or fob system can work well when guests fail to return the keys. However, there is a level of uncertainty that comes with any kind of technology. For example, electromagnetic locks will fail in the power cut scenario unless there is a battery backup system in place.  There is always someone who is determined enough and knowledgeable enough to take advantage of any flaws in a system and when it comes to electronics the possibilities for hacking and breaching security are higher in my opinion. Read here about how easy it is to hack into digital locks.

Hotel Security in the Wake of Recent News Reports

Hotels using these electronic systems are at high risk because the press coverage surrounding the discoveries will open up a can of worms. Awareness of the vulnerability of hotel locking systems in general is now at the forefront of media attention leaving hotels open to further incidences.  Of course reassurance will be offered from companies providing and using these systems but I would take these reassurances with a pinch of salt. Of course companies don’t want to lose business and will fight to rescue falling sales figures.
hotel security
Image courtesy of Rian Castillo

The Best Hotel Lock System

A High Security Lock Master Key Suite

For a hotel of any size I would recommend a Master Key Suite comprising of high quality high security locks such as Mul-T-Lock or EVVA.

A Master Key system will allow varying access to different staff members at different levels. The Manager may hold a key that opens all the doors. A cleaner may hold a key that opens a particular set of doors. A master key suite can be extremely flexible and convenient and offer high levels of security as specified by the owner of the locking system.

master key system diagram

Patented High Security Keys

To add further security I would recommend using patented high security keys to avoid duplication. These keys can only be duplicated with the use of an individual code which is only provided to the owner of the key. This means the key can’t be taken to the local key cutting shop and duplicated.

high security keys

Managing Loss of Hotel Keys

Guests may be informed when checking in that failure to return a key will result in a charge or a deposit may be taken for the key. Should a guest forget to return a key, the hotel could have spare cylinders and keys which can be easily replaced and charged to the guest.

Hotel Security in Summary

hotel security

I would urge the general public to take more notice of the security systems in place when staying in hotels. When it comes down to it we have a responsibility to protect ourselves when travelling. It isn’t enough to work on the assumption that the hotel is taking care of our security just as it is ultimately down to us as individuals to take care of our own health. Read our “Hotel Security Must Haves” here. The situation is very concerning, particularly for those travelling with children. Read here about Travel Security with Children.

If you are staying in a hotel and there is something you are feeling uncertain about speak to the manager. We all need to demand higher standards of hotel security in order to improve the current situation.  Should you have any questions regarding commercial or residential security in London and the surrounding areas please don’t hesitate to contact me on my direct line 07947426981.

Main image courtesy of Bert Kaufmann

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