We have all read about instances of terror attacks in hotel premises. In today’s age of the internet these terror attacks have have a new face in the form of cyber crimes. The Romantic Seehotel Jaegerwirt is a 110 years old, 4 star hotel in Austria that is run by the Brandstätte family. Apart from its traditional heritage and a fantastic location at 1763 meters above sea level at a pristine mountain lake, this hotel has been recently in the news for not so good reason.
Last week cyber criminals managed to hack the hotel’s software and gain access to the electronic key system. The result, the hotel was unable to check in any new guests and issue room keys and guests who were already staying at the hotel were locked out of their rooms. The hotel was booked to capacity with 180 guests and within 24 hours there was complete chaos and panic with vacationers not being able to get into their rooms.
There were no phone calls or texts from the hackers just a polite email with a ‘Good Morning’ greeting that went on to demand a ransom of 1500 EUR / 1800 USD in the form of 2 Bitcoins. The email contained the details of a Bitcoin wallet and also had a warning stating that if their demand was not met by the end of the day, the ransom amount would double. Just like it started politely it ended with a polite note saying ‘Have a nice day !’
This sounded like a well planned crime. As the attack coincided with the opening weekend of the winter season, which does not only mean it was a busy season for the hotel but also that ski and luxury travel enthusiasts had paid up to 450 EUR/ 500 USD a night to get a suite with a sauna and a lake side view.
With the entire reservation system paralysed with the software bug rightly called Ransomware, the Brandstaetter family had no option but to pay the ransom in Bitcoins. Apparently any currency that is paid in the form of Bitcoins due to cyber crimes does not qualify for insurance claim.
Finally when the hackers got the ransom amount, they unlocked the key registry system and all other computers, and everything began to run as normal again.
Hacking a hotel software and locking people out of their rooms for a ransom demand in Bitcoin is definitely a unique way of committing a cyber crime. If you follow the Bitcoin economy you’ll know that it’s very difficult to trace Bitcoin payments and movements to the virtual nature of the currency.
Well, but looks like the Brandstaetter family has found a way to safeguard itself for the future. “We are planning at the next room refurbishment for old-fashioned door locks with real keys. Just like 111 years ago at the time of our great-grandfathers.”
Have you ever been stranded in a hotel and faced a crisis situation?