The hotel industry is heading for big trouble if it doesn’t get the issue of guestroom security under control. As you’ve probably heard and read, a group of supposedly peace-loving hackers have found several ways to circumvent the electronic locks in millions of hotel rooms. While apparently their motives are to help industries (the hotel business this time) uncover potential digital threats, the actual results could be disastrous.
Unfortunately, their tactics include announcing their methods to the world, leaving the door open for less-scrupulous hackers and common thieves to rifle through the nation’s hotel rooms in search of lucre or possibly worse. Those of you who have been in the industry a long time probably remember the Connie Francis rape case and the effect it had on the hotel industry. Francis, a pop star of the 1960s and ‘70s, was raped in 1974 in a Long Island hotel room that wasn’t properly secured. She won a $2.5 million (huge for the time) judgment against Howard Johnson, and the entire lodging business was forced to beef-up its security efforts. It gave the hotel industry a bad reputation that took years to shake.
That’s the kind of bad-news publicity we’re facing if this problem isn’t corrected immediately. The lock maker, Onity, has been working with hoteliers to fix the problem, but of course that takes some time. I’m bracing for the morning I open my computer to Google News to see a sensationalized story of a hotel break-in (and perhaps rape, kidnapping, murder, or all four) at a well-respected hotel.
If you don’t act now, the courts of law and public opinion may act for you.