How Secure Are Hotel Room Locks?


It turns out keycard hotel locks are easy to hack. Last July, a white-hat hacker named Cody Brocious demonstrated how he could easily open automated hotel locks, using only a homemade device built for less than $50 and running open-source software. Many of these keycard locks feature a serial port on their underside, into which Brocious plugged a wire, ran the program, and opened the door.

Even though manufacturer Onity now knows of the flaw, it will be years before every hotel replaces their locks with more secure upgrades—there are over 400 million of these locks in America alone. So how can you protect yourself?

SEE ALSO: 7 Popular Vacation Spots You Need To Avoid

Chain Vs. Bar Lock

Every hotel room has either a chain lock or a bar lock, which can only be set or unlocked from the inside. These are a great first line of defense. The bar lock is better than the chain lock, as burglars have shown how easily they can defeat the chain lock using only a rubber band.

Not that the bar lock is flawless either: WonderHowTo has suggested a method for opening the bar using only an envelope. That said, locking the chain or bar when you are inside the room would stop most common thieves, and protect you long enough to hear the jiggling door and wake up.

First Steps

  • Make copies of your valuable documents—passport, credit cards, driver's license—before you leave home.
  • Try to stay in a good part of town at a hotel with a 24-hour front desk.
  • Use the mini safe in your room for things like your wallet and jewelry—you set the combination yourself, so you know you can trust it.
  • If you have something especially valuable, keep it in the hotel safe.
  • Consider keeping on the TV on low when you leave the room.
  • Make sure the windows lock, too.
  • Check that your room phone works.

SEE ALSO: Where To Hide Your Spare Key

Protect Yourself With Gadgets

If you have taken the above advice and still want more, get yourself aDoor Stop Alarm from General Electric. The $10 device fits easily in your suitcase. Simply wedge it beneath your door when you go to sleep, and if someone pushes the door open a blaring alarm will sound.

Or purchase a portable door lock from Forceguard. This metal device wedges between the door and the jamb and produces a counterforce against the stress of an attempted break-in. The ultra-portable lock costs $25.

If you are paranoid that an expert will use a bent wire to pull open your interior door latch, simply stuff a towel behind the handle.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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