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Hotel guests locked up after ransomware hits Austrian 4-star

The electronic key system of Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt in Austrian Alps was compromised by hackers, forcing managers to pay a bitcoin ransom in order to recover it.

The 4-star hotel's systems were frozen by hackers last week which resulted in the complete shutdown of computers.The 180 guests in the Austrian village of Turracherhohe pass found themselves unable to open their hotel room doors and in the end the hotel ended up paying about $1, 800 (two bitcoins).

In a series of emails, the hotel said on Tuesday (January 31) that the infection also resulted in new guests being temporarily unable to get keys to their rooms. The new arrivals were treated to champagne while they waited.

The hotel was also targeted in November by ransomware that forced the hotel to pay €1,500 ($1,603) in bitcoin in order to take back control of its key system.

After after being repeatedly targeted by hackers, the hotel has decided to ditch its electronic room cards for the old-fashioned locks and keys.

The restoration of the systems after the first attack did cost several thousand euros and the hotel did not get any money from the insurance so far because none of those to blame could be found.

One of the most astonishing parts of the Austrian saga is that there was apparently no such physical fail-safe mechanism, despite the fact that electronic key cards—as every hotel guest well knows—malfunction all the time.

This is a good demonstration of why electronic systems need physical backups.

These sorts of attacks remind us of the extent to which our physical surroundings are increasingly controlled by computers. A door you can’t open is, in some ways, scarier than a digital file you can’t access.
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