Experts warn some digital hotel room keys could be hacked

Many hotels now offer a new convenience, digital room keys. They are the next wave in high-tech travel but we found there may be a cost to this convenience.

Dorinda Purvis has a lot to keep track of when she travels but one thing she no longer has to worry about, losing her hotel key.

“I’ve been able to use an electronic key that you can access through your phone,” Purvis said.

Digital keys work through a hotel’s mobile app, typically paired with Bluetooth. You can skip the check-in process, have instant access to your room when it’s ready and there’s no need for those magnetic key cards.

“I have a hard time keeping up with plastic key cards sometimes. A lot of times, too, they might lose their magnetism.”

However, tech security experts say the convenience may come with risks that include hackers being able to access and change some hotel administrator passwords.

Trustwave Security Consultant, Shawn Kanady, said, “Once you have the administrator password it’s game over for any application. At that point, you can do whatever you want.”

The security expert stressed that he knows of no actual criminal hackings. Marriott did not respond to our requests but Hilton tells us “this innovation continues to provide a seamless and secure experience for our guests”, explaining there are safety mechanisms built into the system.

Consumers can also help by removing any apps after they are done using them. Still, Purvis says convenience outweighs any potential risks.

“I am notorious for losing the regular keys, so I really do enjoy the feature.”

Hilton says the digital keys are only assigned to known guests and devices associated with that Hilton Rewards Member and it requires a unique security certificate to unlock the door.

Reporter:Michelle Kingston
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